Recovering Joy

After a long and productive conversation with my wise and discerning husband I have deduced that my natural, God-given JOY, has been under attack!

I say this, because from the very first day of my true salvation, a joy so complete, so utterly penetrating, so divine, seeped into my spirit, and into my soul!
I felt, quite truthfully, different.   I’d always been enthusiastic, always up-beat, never, and I mean NEVER, pessimistic!  I was, as many may confirm, an optimist, and a joy-filled person regardless of circumstances.   (Of which there were many opportunities I’d chosen, selfishly, to be the opposite!)

I thought, innocently, that ALL Christians were PERFECT!   All of us!

I started my Christian journey in a fabulous Bible-believing, Spirit-filled church, with our church family functioning on all (seeming) cylinders; loving, nurturing, accepting, liking, honest, accountable to leadership darlings, who loved Jesus absolutely, and who exuded His joy and character as much as they were able!

A happy memory and notion!

Enter reality!

Erosion is the gradual destruction of something previously untouched.

In the spirit, it’s an insidious draining of that intrinsic, instinctive feeling of well-being that is the bedrock of joy.

At this juncture, I must stress that it has had nothing to do with my faith.  Nothing!

It has made me prostrate my grieving, disturbed self even more, convinced that there was something I could do, to stop this pervading enemy.

And when the heavens seemed brilliant brass, the breakthrough I so longed for suddenly cleared, and I began to acknowledge that it had to do with… wait for it… people… and my perception of some.

Whether my expectations were too high, or blurred, I am willing to admit that in the process of grasping the soured fruit of my eroded joy, certain situations were offensive to me, to the point of a silence more devastating than conflict.

I was, and still am, in so many ways I’m not proud of, a chicken!

Confrontation to me is a last resort, over the hills and far, far away!

The very thought of actually having the conversations that I am party to in my head at 3am in person, appalls me! (Surely I am not alone in this?!)

An invaluable reminder for me, has been to celebrate the differences in us all… the way we think, react, respond, behave… love, speak, share, overcome… like a spiritual smoothie blended together in the uniqueness of His creation!

Romans 5:3 has always been a great encouragement for me… “Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance character, and character hope.” So, if God is after my character being built, possibly being the result of suffering, I choose to persevere to produce a pleasing character for the Lord, which in turn, infuses hope into my heart. Right?

Hmmm… it’s a constant choice.   Daily.  Sometimes hourly.

It’s the craziest scenarios that bring me joy… it’s different to gratitude, I’ve learnt.

The very first prophetic word I received is emblazoned in my memory…

”Your gratitude is deep, but it’s not your gratitude I want.  Come with me, and together we will tramp the plains of the earth and I will give you a fragrance that people will be drawn to, but it is not your fragrance, it is My fragrance…” saith the Lord…

In the natural, since that afternoon in December 1991, my gracious Lord Jesus has NEVER allowed the perfume bottles on my dressing table to diminish.  Not once!   Even last month, He gifted me through a new friend, an exclusive perfume that was straight from Him!  A reminder that HIS fragrance was still at work… in spite of what I deemed was a desert of flagging joy!   He is faithful to complete that which He begins… how marvellous…. How dare I wallow in that desert assuming that His joy has deserted me?!

But it felt like teeny fissures had threaded their unwelcome way into my joy… the serpent of old, like a slithering, hardly noticeable tongue-flicking serpent, until the leak is discovered.

And a leak there was… the evil one ‘pushing the envelope’ until the glue of grace on the flap was brittle and dry.

Finally, the voices ceased, and the whispers of my Lord, like Heavenly laser, penetrated the fog.

God is our Miracle Worker, not me! Jesus is our Saviour! Not me!

The enemy had tried to chip away ruthlessly at the fearsome place the Lord has placed me in, (even by using Jesus’s darlings)…not fair at all!

Oh how tiring it was, and so after hours of travail, the Holy Spirit whispered these words to me… (which we all know, have heard, have repeated, but some of us continue with our Bose-covered ears and actually miss the import of…)

“My Grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Cor 12:9

There seems to be confusion when it comes to presumed weakness.   In the world, for example, any weakness is a target for bullying and demeaning presumption.
In the church, grace, is very often misperceived as weakness… humility, (which I’m fully persuaded is a preferred currency of our Lord’s), is seen as weakness, instead of being seen as meekness.  Such a difference!

Meekness is controlled strength!

So often, SO often, my husband extends grace and courtesy to those who seek continuously to instruct him or oppose him.   I am amazed at how he responds with love and understanding…. grace seems to pour as unconditionally as Jesus promises His does, to all he loves and leads, (which is every one!!!)

My goodness, I knew the Scripture, but I really found it an extreme challenge sometimes to exude it myself!

I love kindness.   It brings me to tears.  The lump in my throat causes my heart to heave.   When I sniff kindness, authentic, generous kindness, I blub.  And there are many darlings in my life who elicit these tears.  Many!  My joy perks up, and I feel like a mongoose… alert, inquisitive, ready to move and do battle if necessary… it lasts just as long as I’m with them, breathing in their contagious pleasure at just being together sans any agenda, other than to bring joy and genuine mutual care.

I love a harmony of sorts that gives glory to our King ~ that remains my primary objective.

To commune with God is to experience true joy, and I realize that the treacheries of life, if not taken to Him, will insidiously erode that joy which is His very nature in me.   I don’t think I expect the impossible… I don’t expect to wander around with a (false) grin on my face to make others think I’ve got my entire act together… NO… but I DO long for that deep, impenetrable cauldron of bubbling  joy to be my plumbline and stay!  Surely Lord, that’s still always available to me?

Yes, I know it takes choices.  Choices that initiate total surrender.  Choices to flick off the drama’s, horrors and pain.  I have been called to overcome.  I have been placed and positioned by my Father in Heaven, to love and care for His people.  Jesus builds His church, so He brings those He wants us to love and disciple through our doors, His way, in His timing.  So very grateful we are… truly beautiful people, every one!

John 15:11 tells me “That My joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.” Joy should never be confused with happiness.  Jesus’s absolute joy was His total self-surrender and sacrifice to His Father… His joy in doing what His Father sent Him to do.

Oswald Chambers asks if I have allowed Jesus Christ to introduce His joy to me?

WOW!   I thought that joy was a natural flow of living water, and that I would be a forever fountain…and this is fascinating… “the lives that have been the greatest blessing to you are the lives of those people who themselves were unaware of having been a blessing.”   I want to be that person!  Just to live and breathe Jesus with a natural, authentic joy that permeates other’s hearts.  That’s all.

So Lord, I thank You for replenishing my joy, for gluing the fissures that had leaked, and for sealing once and for all that never-ending Nehemiah truth… that “The Joy of the Lord is my strength!” Thank You Jesus.

Bridget Ellwood

Pastor, lover of people, to err is human, to hug is divine, wife of a great dude, mother extraordinaire to the most precious daughter of the king. Am more than blessed and so proud of my daughter. Author, blogger and follower of the king. Alongside her husband Mark (Senior Pastor) they lead The Bridge - Church For All Nations, and Bridget oversees the Ladies and Legends (60+) ministries. Follow Bridget’s personal blog