I’ve told the story many times of when my wife and I, along with the kids, were camping up in the Sierra’s in northern California. Our campsite that year was next to a small stream that meandered throughout the campgrounds. If I remember correctly, we spent a good amount of time wading in that cold, snow melt fed stream on that vacation.
On one afternoon after some relentless prodding, the kids and I actually got Piper to venture into the water all the way to her hips… and just when we thought that it couldn’t get any better than that, she suddenly dove underwater, shot out like an arrow and to our utter amazement yelled at the top of her lungs, “You didn’t think I’d do that, did you?” To which we could only nod our heads as it took us TOTALLY by surprise!
Well… that TOTAL surprise and inability to speak and/or explain what I had just witnessed is exactly the same experience I had the first couple of years after our return home from our Bible School-driven move to Oklahoma. There was just SO many emotional, mental, physical and spiritual realities going on as we finally began to get some informed details concerning the depth and speed of Piper’s health deterioration, a new demanding job that was keeping me out of town and away from the house for up to 12 hours a day, a breakdown of our former network of family and friends that we’d depended on previous to our move, and negative responses from family that were completely unexpected.
To say that my life was in a tailspin would be a grave understatement! But as was the case throughout Piper’s and my marriage, we continued to turn to the Lord and his Word for direction. As we began to focus fully on Him and the ways we believed He was calling us to follow, we started to discover the need to be strongly knowledgeable and convinced of our own faith in what we believed to be His truth for us and our path through the valley we had entered into.
It was also at this time that I began to really take notice of the atmosphere that Piper and I were being surrounded with. At the beginning, I found myself just doing all the religious things that I had done before, thinking that this would be enough. But after many weeks and months of growing confusion and frustration, I began to hear the Lord’s voice in me, distinctly calling me to step up… or in His exact words to: “Man-Up!”
Then, old familiar Bible verses like Nehemiah 8:10 began to repeatedly pop up in my head reminding me that “the joy of the LORD is my strength.” (KJV personalized). While others encouraged me to “Always be joyful in the Lord! I'll say it again: Be joyful!” (Philippians 4:4 God’s Word ©) And of course there was our old favorite that I’ve been talking about in recent blog posts where Peter seems to be making a clear connection between the action steps that we take while believing God and His Word, with our personal levels of joy saying: “you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith…” (I Peter 1:8-9 ESV)
I admit that it took awhile for the Lord to get through this thick head of mine, but I slowly began to see the utmost importance of keeping both Piper and I in an environment of JOY, praise and the confession of God’s Word… and as much as possible, AWAY from negative, depressive and/or discouraging venues.
I can remember the day I finally “got” this directive of the Lord like it was yesterday. It was the day when I realized that my care for my sweet wife was to entail a lot more than just assuring that her physical needs were met, but also… and maybe more importantly, that her spiritual needs were met… on a daily basis!
So, with that understanding, I began to make a series of tough decisions that eventually led to our move out here to the east coast. And you know, even though I dearly miss many of our family members and good friends back home, I have NEVER regretted that decision!
I like the wording of I Peter 1:9 in the Easy-To-Read Version of the Bible where it explains the results of our JOY infused steps of faith declaring that: “Your faith has a goal, and you are reaching that goal—your salvation.”
For, I have NO doubt that our consistent efforts to keep us in and then diligently protect the atmosphere of JOY that we surrounded ourselves with, caused that verse to become a reality in our lives! A quick examination of the word “salvation” will note that the word used is a derivative of the Greek word “sozo” which encompasses many promises to the Christian who actively believe including: “to save, that is, deliver or protect (literally or figuratively): - heal, preserve, save (self), do well, be (make) whole.” (Strong’s)
Well, while I am experiencing even greater times of emotional pain and duress every time I think about the absence of my lovely best friend and wife,* I am immediately reminded and re-filled with JOY in knowing that she is NOW at the goal of our faith, in the very midst of her “sozo” in heaven!
So, what more can I say? Well… I actually do have a few more thoughts about the importance of a life of JOY which I’ll continue with in upcoming posts… But until then… think about it for a few moments, and ask yourself… “How am I expecting to enter into and protect an atmosphere of JOY around me today?”
*I think I figured out that with all of the physical and legal details of Piper’s passing completed, that I am now free to simply focus on all of the special and countless memories that I hold dear to my heart concerning her wonderful qualities, high levels of spiritual discernment, her personal, mental, physical and moral characteristics, personal beauty and maybe most of all, her always abounding and seemingly never ending JOYFULNESS!