July 10, 2018
"You will grieve, but your grief will suddenly turn to wonderful joy." John 16:20b (NLT)
I'd always been a positive, optimistic person who enjoyed life. Although life was never problem-free, I still tried to embrace each day with gladness and thankfulness. However, after years of distress, it seemed that person was now a distant memory.
Separation and divorce had taken its toll. Life had been hard for many months. I was worn-out in every way. At times, it felt like merely breathing was work. Some days, just forcing myself to get out of bed was a challenge, because all I wanted to do was stay buried in the dark and not have to deal with reality.
My spirit was crushed. My hope was failing. My prayers seemed unheard. I carried the weight of all my family responsibilities while also battling stress, insecurities, hurt and depression. I just wanted the struggles to end, and I literally thought they never would.
Although I looked fine on the outside and tried to wear a smile and keep going, I was dying inside. My brain couldn't even entertain the thought of being happy again.
But I so desperately longed to be.
Maybe you can relate. When life is hard, tragedy strikes, rejection stings, or situations seem hopeless, true happiness and peace can become nothing more than a memory, and we can gradually lose our will to fight for joy.
But fast-forward two years. I walked outside early one morning to my mailbox, looking forward to the day ahead. The sun shone brightly, making the fresh morning dew shimmer. The air was crisp and smelled of sweet honeysuckles and gardenias from my yard. Birds were chirping. Two cute little bunnies munched on clovers in the grass. A neighbor waved and smiled as she passed by. Then out of nowhere, an unexpected sense of happiness welled up in my spirit, catching me off-guard and almost bringing tears to my eyes.
That's when I truly realized the struggle had ended. Not the daily struggles of life because those always will exist, but the struggle for happiness and the ability to love my life as it was.
The fight was over. Joy had returned. Redemption had won.
In John 15, Jesus teaches the disciples the importance of staying close to Him and standing firm in their faith because He knew life was about to get hard. Difficulties often usher in doubts of God's goodness, so He also warned them in John 16:1, "I have told you these things so that you won't abandon your faith" (NLT).
Throughout John 16, Jesus prepares the disciples for the overwhelming sorrow they'd soon experience during His suffering and crucifixion. He knew the grief awaiting them would be unbearable and that their hopes would be crushed for three long, painful days.
So in today's key verse, Jesus gives His disciples great hope, "You will grieve, but your grief will suddenly turn to wonderful joy" (John 16:20b). The disciples didn't fully understand, but Jesus knew His death would bring utter heartbreak and sadness. Then after He rose again, their mourning would turn to a joy which could never be taken away from them.
Jesus didn't tell them they would now live trouble-free lives - in fact, He said exactly the opposite. (John 16:33) He promised that in due time, their weeping would convert to celebration, and their faith would become the ultimate source of their happiness.
We all have struggles, disappointments and heartbreak. They are unfortunately parts of life - which is why it's crucial we ground our joy in Christ and not relationships, circumstances, jobs, health or achievements.
All those things are transitory, but joy from Christ is permanent. Holy joy gives us courage to smile when our hearts are broken, pushes us to persevere when we feel like quitting, fuels us to stand strong in faith when hope wavers, and equips us to trust He can always bring beauty from brokenness. Joy from Christ is life-giving.
Today, that positive, optimistic person I once knew is back, with a genuine smile on her face and steadfast joy in her heart. She now knows that faith is the key to having the willpower to fight for joy, even when we feel we have no fight left in us.
Because if we have the will, God has the power and redemption always wins.
Dear Lord, I trust in Your power in my life, and I will choose joy based on Your promises alone. Help me learn to love the life You've given me. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
TRUTH FOR TODAY:
John 15:11, "I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow!" (NLT)
When you pre-order Tracie Miles' new book, Love Life Again: Finding Joy When Life Is Hard, through Proverbs 31 Ministries July 10-31, you'll receive 6 valuable free gifts and several bonus gifts, including a study guide, video teaching series, private access to Tracie's live webinar, and more! Click here for more details!
Love Life Again is our fall Online Bible Study, so get your book now - ahead of the rush!
Visit Tracie's blog for encouragement on reclaiming your joy and love for life. You can also enter to win one of 5 copies of Love Life Again from David C. Cook publishing company.
REFLECT AND RESPOND:
If you're in a hard place, will you allow yourself to believe you can not only feel joy again, but love your life again, too?
Write a prayer to Jesus today inviting Him to be the source of your joy and proclaiming your willingness to love your life again, no matter what.
Join the conversation - share your thoughts about today's devotion in the comments.
© 2018 by Tracie Miles. All rights reserved.