Joy. The fact of the matter is, if you don’t choose it, it’s not going to come running after you mile after mile forever. I believe that we serve a pursuing God. One who is loving and unyielding and utmost and holy. And I believe that He desires for us to have joy–pure, unadulterated, magnificent joy. I think when we reach out to God to find it, and when we seek it with our hearts open, it is there for us at the ready. God is willing to give and give and give some more.
When we are thankful and express sincere gratitude…when we look up with our hands open, instead of relying inwardly on ourselves with fists clenched…I think God delights in filling our souls to the absolute brim with joy. Even when we can’t see it on our own without His help. Even when life it hard. Even when happiness isn’t part of our daily experience. Because happiness and joy aren’t at all the same. One is fleeting and relies on the external, the tangible, the here and now. And the other rests entirely on the eternal. On hope. On what we believe but cannot see. On possibility and trust and the confidence that our Creator has our best interests at heart. Joy requires us to give God the benefit of the doubt, then frees up even more of our capacity to do so. And when we do this, my goodness, does He show up! When we open up our lives to God–and I mean really surrender, He displays Himself in undeniable ways. He translates our messes. He makes all things new. He delivers JOY.
I once heard a message on the idea of a softened versus a hardened heart, and one particular concept struck me deeply. It implanted itself in my spirit, and it was simply this: we are always, all of us, either running toward or running away from God. We are either in pursuit of Him or not. And when we’re not, we’re turned in a dangerous direction. Running toward God, no matter how large or small the effort, softens our hearts to Him. It opens up the possibility for God to move in our lives–for Him to pursue us further, and to embolden us as we run. But if we are simply standing still, without effort, or with closed minds to what He can and will do, we shut ourselves off to the blessings God has for us in the here and now–and to the work He wants to do in our hearts to move us closer to Him. God will pursue us, certainly, but the longer we stand in an opposing direction, the harder our hearts will become to His efforts.
This isn’t enough to chase God away. Nothing could be. But when our hearts become hardened, God has to turn up the heat.
I love this concept, and I’m healthily fearful of it. I don’t want to be in a place in life where God has to crank up the heat to get to me. I don’t want Him to have to press so hard that I can’t distinguish the weight and why He’s applying it. I don’t want to bemoan God because He’s pushing on all sides to reach me, and I’m ignoring His every attempt. I know He wouldn’t give up easily, and because of this, I know He could bring me to my barest of knees. I pray that I would always be open to God’s pursuit of me, such that I need Him in the very best, joy-filled moments just as much as I’d cry out to Him in the darkest night.
If I knocked on the door to someone’s house and they answered, I would stand a chance of getting in. They might even welcome me. But if I knocked and knocked and knocked to no avail, and I came back and knocked some more without reply, I’d honestly get tired of knocking. It’s truly something that our God doesn’t tire of knocking like we do. But He does up the ante. He’ll call in the fire department to knock doors down if He has to. He’ll blow that door to pieces if He wants at a heart badly enough. And the mess might be messy–God’s not afraid of a mess. It just sure seems easier to answer the door and let Him in than to wait long enough that we’re on the floor beside ourselves, trying to piece the leftover bits of dust and our lives back together because it took that much to get our attention.
If God is knocking (and He might be politely quiet about it at first), it’s worth the time and energy to pull back the curtains on our lives, recognize Him, and let Him in. If He’s already pounding at your door and you’re hiding on the other side, there’s no harm in opening it up–His loving response is still the same. Just don’t let Him pull out the fireworks to get your attention. It might seem easier to wait until God is barreling you down to give Him the time of day, but I know from experience…the joy He’s offering is something you want to grab ahold of now. Fling the door wide open. You have nothing to lose but heaps upon heaps of life change and joy. And you have everything to gain.
just. open. the. door. i say it because i mean it. and because it’s the absolute most important thing i could say.