"Let a man set his heart only on doing the will of God and he is instantly free."
A. W. Tozer
I felt a gentle touch tap my shoulder, and turning to look behind, I heard a quiet, inquisitive voice. "Are you Joy?" We were in a subdued, slightly tense setting, with the typical tone that preludes a somber service for one recently passed. I had accompanied my husband there, as he was asked to speak words of comfort to a family with whom we were little familiar, not an uncommon request for those called to pastoral service.
"No, Ma'am, I'm sorry, I'm not." Looking puzzled and slightly perturbed, she said I looked like Joy and that she surely thought I was. I apologized again and turned, waiting on the service to begin.
After going home, I sat on my sofa and mused about her words. I found myself seeing a deeper meaning behind a simple, uneasy situation. Her question permeated my thoughts, somehow cut to the quick. It went beyond a case of mistaken identity. It was something more than a passing occurrence soon to be forgotten.
I was, during that time, quite exhausted. I was doing my best to be a loving wife, caring mother of two teenage sons, an ace college student and practicum teacher, all the while striving to be a perfect pastor's wife. All in my own strength. All in my own way. All in my own time. Practicing my own will.
My strength was depleted. My energy sapped. My love for God lukewarm. My joy gone. At times, I wanted to drop everything but my family and start over. At times, the stress I carried was so great that I wished I had never followed my own dreams. My own dreams. Dreams that had taken me to an utter state of physical, emotion, mental, and spiritual fatigue.
I cried to the Lord. My heart broke, for I felt the impact of my own failure in leaping into a life-changing decision without seeking God for His peace. I had reasoned my way into such resolve. It seemed so practical. Such a fruitful, honorable endeavor. A means of plenty for our family, who had long suffered from the often lean times found in the ministry.
As I sought the Lord, He sustained me and gave me strength to continue. What I had, in my own wisdom, begun, He provided health and help to complete. God is merciful. After a five year journey of pain and fatigue, with many battle wounds, God moved in a miraculous, yet unpredictable way, and delivered me from a weary war that I had started. He restored my peace and gave me His strength. My joy was renewed.
We know God's word says that His joy is our strength (Nehemiah 8:10). And this joy can be exuberance, but it is, as well, a contented state of spiritual well-being. A satisfaction in Christ. And we find His joy through intimacy with Him, as we seek God's face, eat and drink His word, believe in His holy name, and surrender our lives, daily taking up the cross of Jesus Christ.
It is not perfection that give us joy. It is not success. It is not even the realization of a dream. It is simply doing our best in striving to become mature saints, who will reflect the glory of God. As we yield our lives to Him, we find peace, and through peace with our Heavenly Father, we discover joy, and this joy, this implacable gladness of heart, gives us strength to run the race with patience. Remember, it was for the joy set before Him that our Lord endured the cross and despised the shame of His suffering (Hebrews 12:2). The joy of saving our souls gave Him the strength to endure such horror and pain. What a privilege to serve Him! And how marvelous it is to walk in the joy of the Lord!
Picture is from 2004. I apologize that it's not recent, but it was all I could find this morning.