I’ve made lots of mistakes in my life. Made stupid decisions, said stupid things, believed stupid things, allowed people into my life that were not good for me. In my heart, I believed in God and I believed in Jesus… however, as a teenager and young woman, I wanted to do my own thing. And boy did I!! (We won’t go into specifics here, just suffice it to say I was dumb and young, or young and dumb, definitely both!)
But you know what is so awesome and still amazes me? That whole time when I was choosing my way, and not God’s way, He was still loving me! He was still taking care of me. He was still being patient with me. Even though I know I must have broken His heart multiple times… He never stopped offering me His unconditional love. The Message version of Romans 8:35 says…
Do you think anyone is going to be able to drive a wedge between us and Christ’s love for us? There is no way! Not trouble, not hard times, not hatred, not hunger, not homelessness, not bullying threats, not backstabbing, not even the worst sins listed in scripture…
Well thank goodness!! Because I’ve screwed up a lot! And I’m pretty sure that I’ll screw up again in the future since I’m not perfect.
When I was a younger woman, it seemed pretty amazing to me, and too good to be true, that someone could love me that much. I mean, so many people had let me down, abused me, and basically broken my heart. It seemed impossible to me that that kind of love even existed. So, even though I was involved with church, I would still go my way, and pick and choose the things that God was asking me to do for Him. And I was unhappy. I had no joy. And I couldn’t figure out why. I mean… I was going to church and serving in a ministry, how come everyone else was so happy and full of joy and I wasn’t? And why wasn’t anything going right in my life? I mean… what do you want from me God?
Then I remembered that day. It was a day I’ll never forget. It was the first time I heard Him speak to me.
I had just left my abuser and I was living in a shelter. I was alone, and to top it all off, now a single mom, with nothing to my name. I was in the bathroom on my knees, crying. Crying out to God, asking Him, ‘Why?? Why do I have to go through this? Where are you? Why don’t you help me? What do you want from me?’ I had never spoken that way to God before. I mean, I was yelling at him. I was mad, and hurt! And then I heard that still, small voice, ‘This. This is what I want from you.’
That was a special moment for me. I felt His love in that moment. Like He was holding me as I cried. He had listened to me! And I’d like to say from that day on I was making better decisions. That I was listening more to God and trying to do what He wanted me to do, but that wasn’t the case.
It wasn’t until years later that I remembered that specific day during a sermon at church about prayer. A little light bulb lit up above my head. He wants to hear from me!! And He wants me to hear from Him!!
The Lord is near to all who call on Him, to all who call on Him in truth. He fulfills the desire of those who fear Him, He also hears their cry and saves them. Psalm 145:18-19
So I decided to try these ‘quiet times’. I decided to sit and listen. I decided to talk and share things with Him. I decided to say ‘yes’ to Him, instead of ‘yes’ to only myself. And you know what? Something started to shift. I started feeling more relaxed, more calm, and wait… what’s that? Is that?… It is!… JOY!! I finally felt it! And it felt amazing! It FEELS amazing!
Pastor Rick Warren defines joy as this, ‘Joy is the settled assurance that God is in control of all the details of my life, the quiet confidence that ultimately everything is going to be alright, and the determined choice to praise God in every situation.’
‘Settled assurance’ – I can feel that now. ‘Quiet confidence’ – I’ve got that (even though I’m really loud sometimes). ‘Praising God in every situation’, I am doing it, even when it’s hard. Of course it didn’t happen overnight. But it did happen, and if I start to lose that joy, I know where to go and what to do to get it back!
Do you want that joy? Are you ready to believe and know that God loves you so much and that He’ll never stop? Talk to Him. Listen to Him. And trust Him enough to do what He asks of you. Knowing that He will bring you joy in it. Just give it a shot! I promise He won’t let you down!
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing [through the experience of your faith] that by the power of the holy spirit you will abound in hope and overflow with confidence in His promises. Romans 15:13 AMP