Faith, Joy

Learning To Choose Joy

I am waiting for the certainty. I am longing for the guarantee.

It’s been well over a year since we’ve had a predictable paycheck, and in that time, we watched the business we spent 19 years building, be systematically disassembled.

In the face of starting over mid-life, we moved across the country. We placed our homeschooled children into public school. With more changes on the horizon, I continue to wait for some semblance of normal to return to my life. Instead, all I see is the open space of time…and the frustration of not being able to see beyond the very next step.

As a natural-born planner, it’s been a struggle to live this life of daily faith God has called me to, time and time again. Owning a business, we didn’t have the luxury of planning many aspects of our lives…there was almost always an unexpected need, or expense; some fire that required our full attention. We learned to grab pieces of time and last-minute trips, whenever the opportunity presented itself.

As I examine the lives around me, I see that for all people, life is uncertain. Most just don’t realize it until it sneaks up on them, unexpectedly.

I didn’t expect my son to be born with a birth defect requiring a childhood speckled with surgeries.

I didn’t expect my 37-year-old husband to present with Stage 3 Testicular Cancer, requiring aggressive chemotherapy.

When I was a little girl, I didn’t expect to live in California…and I certainly didn’t expect God to move us to Tennessee midlife…

All of these life surprises tend to initially fill me with a feeling like panic; like my body is full of soda or a million ants marching…then the breathless and torturous waiting until the uncertain becomes known, and then finally a part of my past.

It’s easy to declare God’s faithfulness after the trial…but why is that feeling so illusive when I’m in the midst of it? How can I grasp the freedom of KNOWING I can rest in Him, and trust in Him, even when I don’t know the final outcome? I’m realizing it requires a deeper level of faith than I knew before.

“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for” (Hebrews 11:1-2 )

I’ve been hoping for a guarantee. Something tangible. I’ve been waiting for my husband to go to work, and come home, and have a “normal life” with normal stresses. The truth is that we are starting a new business, so we are a long, long way from that happening. I need to become comfortable living in this new form of uncertainty, once again. I need to let go of my concept of what constitutes a “normal” life, and instead embrace my actual life.

Instead of focusing on the things going wrong…the problems, the unresolved issues, the troubles, the struggles…God wants me to focus on Him, and His promises.

He is good. He is faithful. He holds me by my right hand. He is always with me. He started something good, and will finish it. He has not finished writing my story yet.

Several months ago as I was praying, I saw the shambles of my life like the ashes left over after a house fire. You could recognize some key pieces of the home…the chimney; the brick facade; random pieces of pottery that were fire resistant…but the rest was gone. Completely and utterly ruined. Unrecognizable. My life.

“How long do I need to live amongst these ashes?” I asked God.

I felt him draw my eyes up from the ashes to the top of a wall. Beautiful, lush ivy was growing there, full of life and health and vibrancy. It’s the new life God is building out of these ashes, and it had already begun to grow. I felt His spirit ask…will you focus on the ashes, and all you must leave behind, or on this new thing? It’s up to you…

Do I cling to this impossible goal of certainty, or learn a new way to walk out these days I’ve been given? It’s up to me.

Trusting God is hard, but I know that NOT trusting leads only to fret and despair. So for now, one minute at a time, I will lay down chasing this god of certainty, and embrace God and the wildness of His Holy Spirit…the God who allowed our business to thrive for 19 years, then suddenly fall apart. The God who established my boundaries in pleasant places in California, then ripped up the tent stakes and moved us to Tennessee. The God who has plans for me…good plans…if I choose to follow them, instead of choosing to follow fear, one step at a time. It’s up to me.

So, today, I will choose His path.

Today, I choose joy.

Habakkuk 3:17-18
Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LordI will be joyful in God my Savior.