It is almost that time of year again—a time to celebrate the joy of the Christmas season. Before we festively gather to fa, la, la with family and friends, let’s consider who the father of joy is. Think beyond the obvious answer. Certainly, without Jesus genuine joy is not possible. Jesus is a given in the joy equation.
Who, then, is the source of our joy?
Dr. David Jeremiah presented profound truth in his sermon earlier this week. This Wednesday’s What-Not we explore who he suggests is the father of joy.
He explores the principle of gratitude as he teaches, Learning to Live Thankfully. His teaching says we experience genuine joy when we first express gratitude.
Thus, the father of joy is not whom so much as it is what, or possibly how. Gratitude is the what, the source, behind our joy. Gratitude is the how to obtain and maintain our joy.
If we are not experiencing joy (and I have been there before), perhaps we should explore the temperature of our thankfulness thermostat. If we desire to feel joy more abundantly, let’s turn up the heat as we warm our hearts with all God has done and will do for us.
Practically, what does thankfulness look like? How do we achieve a heart of gratitude even when it goes against the grain of our present experience?
God gives us many things to be thankful for, but with all of us it comes down to this: we choose gratitude. Thankfulness looks like us making a conscious choice to be grateful. We’re choosing joy, in spite of our circumstances at times (see Philippians).
We can invoke our faith and thank God in advance for what He will do, or we can whine about what it is He is not doing – even if we would never dare say our ungrateful thoughts aloud to God or others.
The enemy loves to steal our joy. Satan would love nothing more than for us to be stuck in the muck of, “Woe is me.” Let’s move beyond woe to worship, “Wow, God! Thank you for all you have done and all you will do in our future. You are amazing, God!”
I had a choice to make back in September. Was I going to be a “woe is me” woman? Or could I possibly become a woman of worship when what I wanted most was to whine?
I had planned for well over a year to spend a long weekend in St. Louis with a dear friend of mine. We don’t get to spend as much time together as I would like, so I anxiously anticipated the time we would have to connect and laugh with one another – just us girls. We were supposed to attend a women’s conference, which I knew would be a wonderful experience for us to share, create more memories, and strengthen our friendship.
My first potential, “woe is me” moment looked like this.
A few weeks out from the women’s conference, I received a message from my friend. She wouldn’t be able to attend our weekend get-away after all. I felt slightly defeated inside. We’re both busy ladies and I was missing my friend. Certainly, I was disappointed we wouldn’t have time together.
My next potential, “woe is me” moment followed very shortly behind missing my friend.
Would God have me attend another big seminar all by myself where my insecurity would surface? If you are a new reader, I had recently attended a leadership summit at Willow Creek by myself. The enemy had used that time to berate and belittle me, as he taunted me amid 10,000 people. I felt lost in the sea of people. Never mind the fact that I had gotten blessed with a free ticket just the evening before the seminar. Satan kept telling me “no one likes you”, “you’re not good enough” … blah, blah, blah. (I should have known he was shaking in his boots because God is doing some powerful things in my life. But in the moment I was vulnerable.)
Anyhow, I knew I couldn’t go through another seminar like what I had endured at Willow Creek. The women’s conference was too close on the heels of the leadership summit and I wasn’t certain I had the stamina to go solo.
I am happy to report my “woe is me” moment was fleeting. I knew the enemy was trying to discourage me. Instead, I felt God prompting me to change my perspective. Often, that’s where our choice of gratitude begins, with a change of perspective.
I thanked God for the ticket—mine and the extra one God gave me to share. I thanked Him for whatever He was going to accomplish that weekend. I knew it must be something big or Satan wouldn’t bother with me. Okay, God. You are up to something spectacular. I know you will show up.
I had several friends I thought might want to go, but I wasn’t sure who to ask.
Because I could feel God was up to something, I posed these questions during prayer. Who do You want to go to St. Louis with me? Who is this ticket for, Lord?
God gave me a name and confirmed it through my husband.
I knew exactly who to ask. God knew this moment was coming. He had it planned well over a year ago. I thought the weekend would look one way. He knew it would look another.
The person who went with me is a newer friend. She is someone God wanted to deepen my relationship with. I was blessed with a beautiful weekend with this friend. Our five hour car ride to St. Louis flew by. God had interwoven our lives. He knew we had things in common. He knew memories would be made. He knew growth would be had. He knew healing would happen. He knew everything He would accomplish that I can’t put my finger on or don’t quite know. He knew. He knew. He knew. All of it.
Had I had a “woe is me” melt down, I wonder if I would have missed these moments. I wonder if God would have said, “Nope. She’s not ready for this.” I wonder if I would have whined and complained if I would have worked myself into enough of a frenzy I would have chosen not to go at all. I have no idea, but it is possible.
Because I made the choice to look from a different vantage point, God brought victory in the form of friendship. This was new friendship with a great spiritual foundation. New friends joined with old friends as part of my spiritual house of sisters.
Because I made the choice to look from a different vantage point, God brought victory in the form of freedom. God used that weekend in St. Louis to bring me to a deeper level of liberty. Even though I don’t know all God did, the parts I do know are powerful.
Because I made the choice to look from a different vantage point, God brought victory in the form of faith in action. There are things God asked me to participate in for others. If Satan would have had his way, those things would not have happened – at least not through me. I would have missed out on God’s missions.
I’m thankful God prompted me to change perspective. I had many moments of joy that weekend. The joy I experienced continues in the memories God made when He moved me from woe is me to worship.
Tomorrow, as we celebrate Thanksgiving, let God move us to be women and men of worship. Let’s thank Him for the victory in our lives in the form of our friendships and families, our freedom, and our faith. Let’s demonstrate to others that we are followers of Jesus and make a joyful, thankful noise as we celebrate gratitude for more than just a day.
Questions / Actions
- Have you ever found yourself in a “woe is me” moment? How did you (or can you) move from woe is me to worship?
- What is one friendship you are grateful for? What about that friendship makes you thankful? If you would like more friendships, pray God bless you with divine connections. That He would intertwine your story with others that He alone knows you share a common thread.
- What is one form of freedom God has brought you? Thank Him for that freedom.
- How has your faith changed or challenged you? How can you express your faith to others as a form of gratitude to God?
* Turning Point, Learning to Live Thankfully with Dr. David Jeremiah. Aired WWTO, Chicago: 24 November 2013.