It’d be nice to lead what the world calls a “charmed life”, wouldn’t it? Bills paid and enough for a cappuccino afterward, no breakups or fallouts, no failures, no awkward situations or health troubles? The internet and magazines bombard us with the world’s recipes for better living, and then… well, we look at our own lives and cringe, and try to survive on our spiritual mood enhancers til the next wave of inadequacy hits. What we’re actually doing is confusing joy with happiness, which is pretty much confusing good health with a caffeine buzz.
I think it’s safe to say, nobody’s successfully living the charmed life. None of us can maintain happiness and tangle-free everyday existence. Throw in sudden catastrophes, and we’re scrambling just to get our bases covered. Our walk with God suffers, our stress levels are astronomical, and we don’t know where to turn. It’s easy to wait until we reach this point to run to God and loudly proclaim, “Hey, teach me to trust You! I’m struggling over here and I need Philippians 4:7 peace stat, please!” God is faithful and gives us the grace we need at these times, but wouldn’t it be easier if we were already trusting, already firmly planted, already prepared for whatever comes?
Next to soulwinning, building a proactive faith not dependent on spiritual perks is probably the most important thing I need to focus on. It’s sustaining faith. It restores the benefits of my salvation to their proper place and exalts Almighty God as the absolute foundation of my life. I want to take this process slowly in several installments, so hit that “Keep Me Posted” button and stay tuned.
The first step to living in joy is walking with God. Many, many times I’ve had friends complain that they’re “trying to trust God” for a certain problem, but when I ask them about it, they’re not having a consistent walk with God, let alone studying the topic, fasting, etc. It doesn’t matter how good my life is going; I will destroy every blessing He has given me if I will not consciously make the time to spend with Him. On the flip side, I’ll have a much easier time turning to Him in crisis if I’m already facing Him!
Probably many of us have a daily devotional time, but it’s gone a bit stale. You’re reading your chapters and going down your prayer list, and still leave your chair feeling unprepared to face the day. If God isn’t speaking to me through His Word, I know the short-circuit isn’t on His end, and I know it’s time to jump-start my sluggish spirit. The single most helpful thing I’ve done for my walk with God was to keep a notebook. Before I start reading, I ask the Holy Spirit to open the Scriptures to me. As I read, I look for “game-changers” – things that make me perceive differently, things I’ve never noticed before, or specific things that I need to apply. And I don’t get up til I have something written down that I can either apply or meditate on throughout the day. This is also where I write questions that I need super-specific answers to – what do I do about X? why do You have mercy on Y but not on Z in this instance? – and watch as the Holy Spirit brings direct, unequivocal answers in the following days. There are no coincidences with God – only new filters through which to view the ordinary.
Walking with God, as with time spent with earthly friends, is as much listening as talking. Some people find prayer very easy, but allow distractions to keep them from the Bible. God never gets a word in edgewise, and they wonder why it seems like He isn’t listening. Others – myself included – can read and study the Bible tirelessly but prayer comes awkwardly. So pray awkwardly! When I first made the decision to have a consistent prayer life, I kid you not, my whole body shook every time I began to pray. I was convinced He was only half-listening, perturbed because I had neglected prayer for so long. I stumbled over words, I somehow repented for over-softening a stick of butter (yes, that’s for real), I couldn’t keep my thoughts together, and the frustrated groans coming out of me were loud enough to make the dog bark. Yikes. This went on for weeks!
But you know what? I reached a point where I didn’t want to start a day without at least having a cup of coffee with Him, talking to Him, listening through His Word. I’m not a morning person, to be painfully honest, but I found myself eager to run into His presence, even if it meant getting up at 4:30 so I wouldn’t be late for work. “Pray without ceasing” makes a lot more sense to me now – because most days, I don’t want to say Amen and walk away. Because now I’ve found a “secret place” to dwell in, and discovered that “in His presence is fulness of joy”.
Until the next post, take your walk with God to the next level. There are no formulas or magic tricks to obtain joy. There is no joy outside of a strong, active relationship with Him. That simple. If your devotional life is consistent, reevaluate where you’re lacking and ask Him to reveal the short-circuits. If you’re new or inconsistent about it, start somewhere! Set your alarm a half hour earlier and read the chapter of Proverbs corresponding with the date (I’ll tell you why in the next post). Spend some time praying for wisdom, for a closer walk with Him, for specific needs. Ask your resident Teacher, the Holy Spirit, for help.
And don’t end the conversation when you say Amen.