Splendor and majesty are before him; strength and joy in his dwelling place. 1 Chronicles 16:27
Nehemiah said, “Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is sacred to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.” Neh. 8:10
The two biggest arenas in which God is growing my family’s faith, showing Himself to us in more dynamic ways, exposing our unbelief and false beliefs, and meeting our needs with the person and work of Jesus rather than our usual replacements are this move to a less traditional neighborhood (less traditional for white people, I should say, while generationally very traditional for our new black neighbors) and the adoption of our third child from Uganda. God’s grace has been on the move in our hearts through these processes and is continuing to move us forward in these circumstances, even if excruciatingly slowly for our taste.
His grace is on the move in our hearts through these “classrooms”…His Spirit is developing more patience in my heart that clearly wasn’t there naturally before, more gentleness in my interactions with my children and Terrell than the snippy, micro-managing tendencies that are more natural for me, more peace about not being all things to all people, more love for people that wouldn’t be most comfortable on a long trip across the country and He is showing me more of Who He is, how trustworthy He is, how specifically He really does orchestrate all of our circumstances and how intimately involved He is in the process of making all things new even now.
Not that we lord it over your faith, but we work with you for your joy, because it is by faith you stand firm. 2 Cor. 1:24
If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. John 15:10-12
Knowing that God’s grace is on the move in my heart and that God’s grace is on the move in my community, that it is on the move not just as a goal in itself but to make all things new and to develop His image in all of His creation, my response should be worship and celebration. Walking with Him through my apartment or the streets of Kampala can be coupled with joy simply because I am with Him and He is with me and therefore I have nothing to fear. The heaviness and lack of joy is indicating to me that my faith is not so firm. Instead of dancing through each phase of the adoption or toward our new home with joy, I find myself dragging legs of concrete with an increasingly downcast expression. My lack of joy has something to do with the fact that I don’t fully believe He is with me and so I begin to fear. These doubts come from within, but they have also been unfortunately encouraged from well-intentioned friends. It’s not that questions like “Is it safe?” or “Do you think you might be forcing your own will when God is trying to tell you no?” are out of bounds. It is right to examine our decisions and ask God to search our hearts. But, what I’m realizing is that these kinds of questions, usually asked by people who haven’t been walking intimately with us through this, have an accusatory undertone. The questions from my own heart and from the mouths of others, accuse me of acting alone apart from God, assume that it is possible for me to act alone apart from God, assume that God would leave me alone for trying to act alone apart from Him and that my welfare and that of my family’s rests not on God’s provision and commitment to us but on our getting it right. Condemnation lurks just around the corner for us if we get it wrong. No! That equation and all those accusations totally exclude Jesus! They totally overestimate the power of my will as being greater than God’s and they totally underestimate His mercy, authority and goodness in ALL things. We cheer as we read in the Chronicles of Narnia Mr. Beaver’s pronouncement that of course Aslan isn’t safe, but he is good. In Narnia, Aslan’s goodness totally overrides the fact that he is not safe because it is His presence in the midst of the battle, his sovereignty even over the White Witch and his will for the restoration of Narnia that are trustworthy and true. The questions in and to my heart accuse in a way that God’s voice and His Good News do not. He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation— Col. 1:15-22
He has promised never to leave nor forsake us, that if I make my bed in the depths or settle on the far side of the sea, even there His hand will guide me, that nobody can open a door He shuts nor shut a door that He opens, that nothing not anything can separate me from His love which is firmly grounded in the life, suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus and not my own perfect choices or understanding. Oh I pray that He will cut off the cement blocks of accusation and unbelief from my legs so that I may dance with joy down the road He is taking us.
I will praise the LORD, who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me. I have set the LORD always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure, because you will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay. You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand. Psalm 16:7-11