Jesus really wants us to be care-free!

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I have gone back to reading Oswald Chambers’ devotional, My Utmost for His Highest.  A few years ago, someone gifted me with Charles Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening. So, I put Chambers’ book aside.  But a friend quoted him a few months ago. I dug out a copy and have so enjoyed and been challenged rereading his thoughts.

This morning I copied down a Chambers’ teaching: “Worrying means we don’t think God can look after the practical details of our lives and it is never anything else that worries us” (May 23)

That admonition ties together today’s reflections about worry and relying on Jesus.

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If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. James 1:5 ESV

Being an ‘ezer’ to my husband is a serious responsibility.  Yet, I know God has assigned me to be Mike’s helpmate. I pray a lot, though still succumb to fretting over possible ‘wrong’ advice.

Mike had been experiencing frustration at work. So, I encouraged him to seek other local jobs in his field. Boeing had an opening.  He applied and Monday was offered the position at a salary way more than he even asked for. All along we prayed for God’s wisdom. But, when I suggested that he let his boss know about the offer, we moved out on a limb of faith, being unsure of the reaction the email would spark. Would he write back: ‘Good luck and in touch!’ or something worse like, ‘After all we have invested in you, you search out another job!!!!’

Brad did not respond the day Mike pushed ‘send’ on his email. It wasn’t until the following day that he connected with Mike. But Mike did not let me know until he came home.  In suspense that lasted until early afternoon, I wrestled with doubts and fears. “Father, did I ill-advise Mike?” Peace came only after throwing myself on God’s sovereign control of even my ‘wrong’ decisions.

Being a wife stretches my faith!

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Let everyone see your gentleness. The Lord is near! Philippians 4:5 NET

I keep re-reading this teaching.  Like you, I am aware of the many cares and burdens that loved ones have. If God is sovereign, then these problems are planned for the good of His people. And He alone gets to define ‘good’!

How are we to handle suffering?  By casting our ‘unsolvable’ burdens on Him.  We specifically ask His help and then hand over the matters.  That means we are CARE-free.  Freed from cares that are too much for us, those situations for which we have no visible resources.

Our mental space then is freed up to reflect God’s desire: ‘Let your gentle carefreeness, which is due to Jesus’ nearness, be evident to all’ (my translation).

I can follow Jesus this day, serving others in love, doing my assigned tasks BECAUSE I know who this Jesus is. He is none other than the loving, faithful, sovereign Creator and Lord of the universe.

If He, the Almighty One, is handling my issues, no worries. But help me, Holy Spirit! It’s far easier to know how I am to handle life’s issues, than to follow through.

Does joy look different in each of us?

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For the joy of the Lord is your strength Neh 8:10

I desire joy and you probably do as well.   But, do you or I always know it when we see it?  Can we recognize joy in another Christian?

For sure, there are those fellow believers who seem to bubble over with a happy passion for Jesus. We recognize that as ‘the joy of the Lord’.

My husband, Michael, prays daily for that kind of joy.  He really wants it, but seems burdened by the belief he bears that he is not anywhere NEAR feeling or displaying that kind of visible, expressive contentment in the Lord.

But is he making a fair self-assessment? I wonder if we do ourselves harm and cause a disservice to fellow believers when we narrowly define the expression of joy, when we expect a joy-filled Christian to look and act a certain way.

This morning I read a definition of JOY in a Tabletalk article. The following two sentences brought relief:

  • “Joy is an apprehension of our great God. It is a realization of and a trust in His promises.” (Rev Kevin D. Gardner)

Oh!  So, joy doesn’t HAVE to look like that constant jovial, spilling over, unrestrained child-like delight that I imagine in ‘real’ Christians?  Is it possible that we’re not ‘less’ of a Christian if our sense of and expression of joy is different?

Here is what I think happens. God has wired each of us, his image-bearers, as one-of-a-kind individuals, assigning us temperaments per his wisdom. Could we be incorrect in assuming that OUR particular experiences of God will be or should be the same for each believer?   Could we be burdening brothers and sisters when we describe AND prescribe God’s way of relating to us as normative?

I don’t doubt that you have people in your life who admire you for something, who look to you as a role-model.  By observing you in person, they have bestowed upon you a degree of power to speak into their lives.  You might not even know them.  They may in fact be social media followers who respect you from a distance and want to be more like you.  That is a weighty responsibility, my friend.

I have accorded others that kind of influence over my life.  And it has not always been good for me.  At my very weakest moments when I have measured myself against that ‘Admired One’ and come up short, the self-flagellation has been toxic to my soul and well-being.

In the past, my insecurities as a mom left me ‘that kind of’ vulnerable.  These days, my self-generated critical tapes can play over and over about how I grandparent and how I ‘ezer’ or help my husband. Those times of self-doubt tempt me to look at other older women and draw incorrect conclusions about them.

The result?  I feel bad about myself and think….”I gotta do something different.”  That thought alone feels like pressure and I grow anxious.

Now isn’t ‘anxiety’ another word for ‘discontent’!

Is that what God wants for us, his beloved children?  Does our Father mean for our sense of falling short (of the kind of joy my fellow believing brother or sister displays) to cause doubt about his love for us?  Does he want us fearful that we might not be a Christian?

No!  I don’t think so.

Brothers and sisters, be gentle with yourself.  I believe that joy as a trait or marker of believers comes to fruition by the operative power of Jesus’ Spirit implanted in us at our RE-birth.  Believing, trusting, taking as TRUE all of God’s words in Scripture is what nurtures and grows the kind of joy Jesus had. Jesus loved his flock, his posse of friends and supporters.  But he was a serious Man, the God-Man who suffered in a real body.  I don’t get the picture from Scripture that he was the bubbly type, but the always trusting type, the God-Man who believed his Father.

Brothers and sisters, be wary of describing and prescribing YOUR experience of God’s joy (or forgiveness, peace, guidance, love, mercy etc) as the only fitting expression and communication of God’s goodness.  Yes, be real and share about God and his goodness in your life. But be responsible and wise with your words. Remember those weaker and younger in the faith and be aware of your impact on them. As for me, I don’t assume that everyone enjoys or experiences God the way I do. I am analytical and feel fed through reading and studying and meditating on true ideas about God.  Others feed on God through music or nature or movement.  Our God loves diversity!

Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit;  and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord;  and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone.  To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.  1 Cor 12: 4-7

PS: As I was editing this post, I decided to see if I could find out what kind of ‘of’ is meant in the phrase, “The joy of the LORD”.  Does ‘of’ mean FROM, or PART OF or……?  I googled it and found this helpful blog post that shifted my understanding of the verse in Nehemiah.  Please invest the time to read it.

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