Let me start off by telling you that I totally did not want to write this blog post. At all. In fact, I decided there was something ‘better’ to write on so I devoted a ton of time crafting the right words to share. A bunch of words, at that. I was ready to post it here on the blog and then realized that my file didn’t save and I lost everything. Totally not a coincidence. I couldn’t even get mad. I can’t help but think it was because I was supposed to write about the very thing I really didn’t want to write about. Yet I know I must. And if nothing else, it’s probably just for me. Not to mention obeying the Lord. But since the opposition in me finishing this little blog post has been great, I trust that it must be something to share. So, alas, here I am.
Ever have a recurring theme in your life? No matter where you turn, the topic is in your face? Whenever I sense a thread throughout circumstances that are completely unrelated, I know it’s time to stop and listen closely to what the Lord is saying. Even if I don’t want to hear it. Actually, especially when I don’t want to hear it. My present recurring theme? JOY. The thing we’re told in scripture to consider in the midst of our trials. Basically the last thing I want to consider right now. But I must. And if ever there was a season, it’s now.
Joy quotes in books, joy posts on social media, joy lyrics in songs… it’s been everywhere. For cryin’ out loud, I even have a tattoo on my arm that says joy in Hebrew. Strategically inked. Not because I always have joy but as a reminder to myself to always fight for it…
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. (James 1:2-4)
The above verses are familiar to many of us. But in our ‘knowing’ this scripture, does it mean we are quick to apply it or disregard it? That’s the true test. And it doesn’t matter if you’ve considered it pure joy in your past trials. When our world gets rocked again, the test is whether or not we’ll consider it pure joy again. That’s where I find myself today. Rocked again.
James was slick in his phrasing. He wrote ‘trials of many kinds’. Summed it all up real good. I’m not gonna lie. That bothers me today. Probably because God knew I’d look for an out. If he would’ve only said “consider it all joy whenever you face sickness or loss or financial difficulty”, I’d definitely consider myself exempt when my present trial was not listed. But nope, not a chance. When James wrote trials of many kinds he meant trials of many kinds. All of the above. Which means, whatever various trials you and I go through, it falls under that colorful umbrella. Clearly, he was inspired by the Holy Spirit when writing this book.
So yeah, joy. I can’t escape it. God won’t let me. Yet in my heart, all I feel is pain. I’ve been here before. A place of hurt and sadness. But having a history of hurts doesn’t make it easier the next time around. In fact, because the feelings are familiar, it almost hurts more because of the associations. But… joy. Pure joy, at that.
Just because it smells like joy doesn’t mean it is.
So, I’m super into essential oils. Yes, one of those oilheads. I’ll get into the back story on that another day. (This is not a tangent. Indulge me for a moment…) The brand of essentials oils — doTERRA — that I use (and sell — shameless plug), states on the company website that all of their oils are Certified Pure Therapeutic Grade. Regardless of the kind of oil or where it’s from, every product is guaranteed to go through a quality testing protocol to ensure it’s the real deal. These oils are so pure and effective that you can use them on babies and even take most internally. I often share oils with friends because I know it’ll help with a particular ailment or stress. (They work!). I confess, I’m an oil pusher. But I honestly don’t share it because I’ll get something out of it, I share it because I know it works.
You know what else works? Joy. Pure joy. The joy that scripture talks about – the joy of the LORD – is pure. What the world considers to be joy is really happiness. Happiness is contingent on something happening. Things make us happy. Strong coffee. Flowers. Unexpected handwritten notes of encouragement. Avocado rolls. Belly laughs. Naps. Chocolate Butterfinger Blizzards from Dairy Queen (with peanut butter sauce!). There’s nothing wrong with any of those things and there’s nothing wrong with happiness. Happiness is a good thing but it’s dependent on external situations. Joy is something different. God-given pure joy is something internal that keeps us regardless of the chaos we may find ourselves in. But it can’t be mixed with anything else. When we try to apply watered down joy to our circumstances, it can’t lead to perseverance. And perseverance is what we need to make it through. We need to consider pure joy in our trials. Joy is what pushes us to persevere. Only then can we miraculously share that pure joy in the midst of trials. Not because we’ll get something out of it, but because we know it works.
I gotta share what happened when I started writing this a few days ago. After much resistance, I finally accepted the fact that God was telling me to write about joy, even if it was just for me. It took a little while but I eventually got into the writing flow and then my parents’ dog, Samson, came up to me crying to go outside. So I figured I’d take a quick break to let him out. I went downstairs and into the back yard so he could handle his business and run around for a few. While I was holding the rope tight, Samson ran after a bird. Fast. Really fast. And it resulted in a horrible rope burn on the inside of my hand. After screaming at the top of my lungs, I immediately washed my hands and poured a ton of my lavender oil on my fingers. Though I still ended up in Urgent Care that afternoon with a prescription for some burn cream (and a big fat bill to pay upon check-out), the lavender oil helped with the pain and ultimately the healing because it’s not as bad as it could have been. If I would’ve thrown on some oil from CVS full of chemicals, the fragrance may have been nice but there’s no way it would’ve helped with the pain or the healing. Only the pure oil could’ve done that. And only pure joy can help us persevere through the pain on the journey to our healing.
Did you know that the Bible talks about the oil of joy? It happens to be in one of my favorite passages…
The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion—to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor. (Isaiah 61:1-3)
I love to encourage people through the Word and I’m passionate about seeing others healed and restored by our Sovereign Lord. In fact, my personal life mission is to be an uplifter in the Kingdom of God. But I can’t effectively offer something I have not fully received. I can’t lift up anyone else if I’m choosing to stay knocked down. I can’t offer joy to others if I’m refusing it. To refuse joy is to refuse healing. To refuse healing is to reject Jesus and what He died for. So, I must practice what I preach. Today, I choose joy. Pure joy. I can’t promise I’ll be perfect. In fact, I can guarantee I will fail at it. Probably multiple times a day. The way it’s been lately, multiple times an hour. It will definitely be messy and will undoubtedly be ugly. But when the pain is unbearable, when my anger is extreme, when something random unexpectedly triggers the tears, when the confusion and agony is overwhelming, when I want to run and hide, I will choose joy. Again. Pure joy. Joy in Jesus. Certified Pure Therapeutic Grade.