The Mother’s Day sermon we heard yesterday by the Pastor’s wife definitely drew me back in time through the years of our kid’s childhood. Just about every time she would say something that Mom’s do, I would yell out to my wife exclaiming: “You did that!” Then I would recall a specific event in our family’s history that highlighted the given example. At times it would elicit laughter in me and at other times tears would fill my eyes.
What I realized was that Piper’s joy has always been the spark in our family life. Now that her outward expression of joy has been (temporarily) hidden with the symptoms of Alzheimer’s, I understand how much her joy has meant to me. It was my daily encouragement. It gave me a sense of well-being and importance in my role as her husband and our kid’s father.
But over the last six or seven years I’ve also learned a few other important things about true Christian joy. Paul prayed for the Colossian Church “as you learn more and more how God works, you will learn how to do your work” and that “you’ll have the strength to stick it out over the long haul – not the grim strength of gritting you’re your teeth but the glory strength God gives. It is strength that endures the unendurable and spills over into joy, thanking the Father who makes us strong enough to take part in everything bright and beautiful that he has for us.” (Colossians 1:11-12 The Message Bible)
You see… I’ve learned that while “happiness” depends on positive “happenings,” true Christian joy is independent of both circumstances and problem people. Take last night for an example. While I was helping my wife get ready for bed in the tight confines of our guest restroom, she suddenly went weak on me and began to collapse onto the floor. Well… I was already pretty tired and more than just a bit emotional as I had been walking down Mother’s Day memory lane all day, but I quickly pulled together whatever resolve and brute strength I could muster and held on tight to her and managed to seat her (barely!) in her small transport chair.
Then I sat down on the floor, caught my breath and started to whine with my emotions screaming “NO! Things are supposed to be getting better NOT worse!” But you know… once again… before I could throw all my faith into the trash can of self-pity, I heard an audible voice declaring “Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha!” Then to my surprise I noticed that the voice was coming from… My lips! So… even though I was NOT a happy camper, I figured that I’d better line up with the man on the inside and start praising the Lord.
After I finally got my wife tucked in for the night, I sat down on the bed across from her and asked the Lord “what was that all about?” And He reminded me of my request to Him a few days earlier for more detail as I had been sensing an important relevance toward my wife and I connected to our multi-time daily confession of Nehemiah 8:10 and Proverbs 17:22. In case you don’t remember, Nehemiah 8:10 talks about the joy of the Lord being our strength, while Proverbs 17:22 compares a merry heart to good medicine.
Then I understood. At that moment in the bathroom we both needed strength and some good medicine, and while my physical man was limited in its response, the man on the inside of me came through with just the shot of joy and medicine we needed. That emergency response came from an inside source that is not dependent on outside people, places or circumstances. It came from an anointing of the Holy Ghost and years of packing in and practicing His Joy and a merry heart that is dependent on Him and His Word!
I firmly believe that it was our individual merry hearts that originally drew my wife and I together in High School. Then I can see how He combined those two hearts into one covenant in our marriage union. Looking back now, I can see how our merry heart has been our calling card in just about every situation of our 40 plus years union. I can also see how my wife’s joy made a lasting impression on almost anyone who came into contact with her.
It’s funny that I came across some pictures from a 1998 vacation that our family took in our favorite camp in the Sierras. A couple of shots were taken just before Piper dared the whole family and plunged into the ice-cold waters of Little Jamison Creek next to our camp site. I sent a copy of that memory to our youngest daughter asking if she remembered where the picture was taken as she was nine at the time. And she immediately text me back from Oklahoma giving the date, location and her Mom’s exact humorous reply after diving into the snow melt waters. It is obvious that Piper’s joy has made a lasting and positive effect on all of our kids!
I get the definite sense that one of my major responsibilities as she walks through the effect of this attack on her body (See Psalm 23:4), is to keep her in a spiritual as well as physical environment of joy so that the Lord’s healing medicine can work His will in her. In many respects I have become a purveyor of joy to her! I have learned to carefully watch the attitude of the people she spends time with, do my best to always respond to the trying times with a joyful heart (and am thankful that when I am weak – like last night – that He is strong), and surround her with uplifting music, stories and most importantly, the mighty, joyful, expectancy of His best giving and miraculous Word of God!
So… just how joyful do you keep the atmosphere around you, as well as the attitude you carry about with you? Do you seek to live a life of happiness that is dependent on the happenings around you, or are you founded on the joy that comes from an inner source that is NOT dependent on your physical stimuli? Just how strong are you when you have no physical strength left? Do you have that “strength that endures the unendurable and spills over into joy, thanking the Father who makes us strong enough to take part in everything bright and beautiful that he has for us?” (Colossians 1:11, The Message Bible)
Hummmm… what do you think? Have a great new week, and as you do, keep asking yourself… “Where am I expecting my joy to come from today?”