March Madness: When What You Really Want is JOY

I have a friend who laughs easily.

I just adore her.  She’s a friend who will laugh at our stories, who will giggle at the funny things of life, and just find joy.

I LOVE being around people like that, don’t you?  You can probably think of those in your life who laugh easily and just bring a sense of joy to wherever they are.

laughing-girls

Joy is the antidote to anger.

However, there have been seasons in my life when anger and frustration have stolen my joy.  I came from a family history that was entangled with stories of anger, stories that I’d seen and experienced, some I’d only heard about.  And soon after I had children of my own, I realized that the opportunity to continue that story was more than ready to present itself.

One day, the Lord brought me to a defining moment with this one question: “Is this what you want?”  Did I want to continue with this legacy of anger, both for me and my children?  Of course, I said no.

However, it was one thing to have an epiphany.  It was whole other thing to do something about it.

And so I began a journey with the Lord that has been an incredible catalyst for change in my life, a change that can only be explained by His transformative power.

You see, I had to come to the point where I had to decide whether or not I really wanted Him to do a work in my life.  Did I want to just keep trying harder, working smarter to do better, or did I really want Him to change me from the inside out?  Did I want “sin management” or transformation?  Because there’s a big difference.  When I’m in sin management mode,

  • I am striving to respond correctly to the situation.
  • I am focused on fixing the immediate problem.
  • I am constantly analyzing my emotions.
  • I am trying over and over to just do the right thing.

Sin management is all about the immediacy of the moment, maintaining control and being a problem solver.  It’s working feverishly to just get a bandaid on the issue.  It is striving to not mess up, to “be a good Christian” and do the right thing.

And it’s exhausting.

Transformation, however, allows for a completely different perspective (thank you, Jesus).  When I am living and breathing out of His transformative work in my life,

  • It is God who is at work in me.  Not me at work in me.
  • He goes before me and straightens my path.
  • He changes my eyesight to see with His joy and grace.
  • He changes me from the inside out.

When I am striving towards sin management, the focus is on me, my reactions and how I did.  When I am operating out of His transformation, He gets all the glory.

It sounds so great in theory, doesn’t it?  Typed up here in black and white it reads so easily, when really, on the pavement of every day life, it can get so muddied.  I’ve talked with women who feel so stuck in the grip of anger, women who want so desperately to have hope.  Women like you and me, who want to be free and live stories of beauty and redemption.

So today, if that’s you, and we were sitting at my kitchen table having coffee, here’s what I’d say…

You do not have to stay stuck.  God is able to take the beautiful and the messy of your past and show you His redemptive glory in all of it.  God does not waste a hurt.  Wherever you are at, God is not about keeping you under condemnation or shame.  Galatians 5:1 says that “it was for freedom that Christ set us free.”  There is freedom available, for you, today.  You don’t have to stay stuck.

Ask God to give you a new vision for your future.  He has dreams and plans for you . . . for your future.  However, we so often get so caught up in surviving that we can’t see how to truly live.   Ask God for sight . . . to see beyond your circumstances, to see His future for you.  What would God have for your future?  What do you want it to look like?  For me, I wanted to no longer be stuck in a cycle of sin and shame, but to be a woman and a mom who was strong in the Lord, who was marked by love, and patience, and joy.  Oh, to be marked by joy.  I’ve soaked in this quote from Ann Voskamp often,

What do I want my children to remember — my joy in clean floors, made beds and ironed shirts — or my joy of the Lord? You will be most remembered by what brought you most joy.

What might God have for your future?  Spend some time dreaming with Him.

Pursue that dream with the realization that the lives of future generations are at stake.  My life is so much bigger than just me.  Future generations are directly impacted by the decisions that I make.   The moment I fully took this in, it got real.  I could no longer just operate out of sin management, I had to be changed.  Here’s what that meant for me…

  • I got on my knees.  A lot.  I would kneel by my bed and cry out to the Lord, praying that I would no longer be conformed to this world, but that I would be transformed by the renewing of my mind that I might prove what His will was in my life and in my children’s lives, that which is good and acceptable and perfect (Romans 12:2).
  • I found scriptures and clung to them, ones that encouraged me to be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger, knowing that my anger does not achieve the righteousness of God (James 1:19-20).
  • I asked friends to pray for me.  Bringing it out into the Light among trusted friends was vulnerable, but allowed for accountability and support.
  • I asked my kids to forgive me when I messed up. There is power in admitting your sins to your kids.
  • I asked God to show me how He sees my children, and then asked that He would show me how to love them like He does.  

Oh, I’ve fallen short.  But He is forever faithful.  His dream for my life is always accompanied by His strength to accomplish it.

And finally, I would encourage you to trust that God WILL change you from the inside out.  God has the amazing ability to transform a life with His power, His grace and His redemption.  God is always writing a story of redemption in our lives. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart
 and lean not on your own understanding, in all your ways submit to Him, 
and He will make your paths straight.” (Proverbs 3:5-6).  Spend some time looking at the details of this verse.  Take note that we are not responsible to make our path straight.  It is God who is going before us, making our path straight.  

That will bring freedom and joy to a weary heart every time.

My friend, His dream for your life is always accompanied by His strength to accomplish it.  You don’t have to stay stuck.  Ask Him to give you a new vision for your future.  Pursue that dream knowing that the lives of future generations are at stake.  Trust that God is changing you from the inside out.

Then live as if the JOY of the Lord is your strength.

______________________________

God, thank You that You are forever pursuing me, that You don’t count my sins against me.  Thank You that You don’t waste a single hurt in my life, that You are using it all for my redemption and for Your glory.  Show me how You would have me live.  Take me out of the mind-set of sin management and trying to fix my problems with my own strength.  Transform me from the inside out.  Give me a new vision for my life, one that is filled with Your love, your grace.  Show me a future where You are my God and I am your daughter, walking transformed by the renewing of my mind.  Give me the strength to pursue that dream with all that I am, that my life may be a powerful testimony of You to future generations.  Help me to trust You at every point along the way, knowing that You are going ahead of me, making my path straight.  Praise You, Jesus, that Your dream for my life is always accompanied by Your strength to accomplish it.  Praise You for your freedom, for your never-failing love, and Your joy that gives me strength.  Amen. 

 

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8 Comments

  1. Hi! I am Jeri... on March 29, 2014 at 7:57 am

    Thanks for your encouraging words and lifting up women. I wasn’t born into a joyful family. They were so negative and didn’t laugh a lot. That kind of upbringing is hard to break.

    • womenwhobelieve on March 29, 2014 at 10:12 am

      Hi Jeri, so thankful for your heart to seek Him! Joining you with thankfulness that God can re-write our stories!

  2. Michelle Sidara on March 29, 2014 at 12:20 pm

    I have never thought about quite that way…letting God perform the work in you instead of struggling to manage sin. Thanks for the insight.

  3. Aimée Wheller on March 29, 2014 at 2:23 pm

    My boyfriend an I are going through some attacks from te enemy an I am as she put it in sin management I read this artical an wow GOD must of known I need this thank you GOD

  4. kde1263 on March 29, 2014 at 8:22 pm

    Thank you, Julie. I needed this at this moment. Asking God to show me my child through His eyes. .. to love my child the way He does. My daily struggle. I’m going to keep that paragraph in front of me as I move forward. Thank you for speaking His truth into my heart this evening.

    • womenwhobelieve on March 29, 2014 at 10:20 pm

      Thank you Kim for sharing, sometimes it’s so difficult, God will honor your heart to lean into Him!

  5. Melinda on March 30, 2014 at 4:14 am

    BINGO! Hit the nail on the head. Sin management vs. transformation: BIG DIFFERENCE! That was a very good description, and I want no more sin management. This post perfectly reflected what I’ve been doing vs. what I want God to do. Transformation from the inside out is my greatest desire! Thank you again for doing as God leads you. Also, I will pray for everyone here!

  6. Name Withheld on March 30, 2014 at 8:15 am

    Thank you, Julie. This is exactly what I was reflecting on in my quiet time this morning, right before I read this. It’s the same thing that a friend told me recently. In the middle of excruciating circumstances, I need to let God transform me to see past the immediate injustice and respond with His love, patience, and hope.

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