How to grow in joy:

1 Peter eludes to the idea that we can be filled with inexpressible and glorious joy. We greatly rejoice in the living hope we have in Christ. The dots don’t always connect for me though. The Bible calls us to rejoice always… I rejoice sometimes. Over the last several years I’ve been working through my understanding and convictions on biblical joy. People have told me to choose joy, pray for joy, work through what is stealing my joy, and now I’m learning to pray for the testing of my faith if I want to experience more joy. I see that the center of our joy is is founded on our faith in Christ. That’s what I’d like to reveal here by walking through 1 Peter.

To be filled with glorious and inexpressible joy that results in rejoicing, pray that your faith be tested and proven genuine


What is the goal of your faith? Why do you believe in Jesus?

1 Peter 1:9 says our goal for our faith (believing in Christ) is the salvation of our souls (the preservation or deliverance from harm, ruin, or loss). That salvation, our inheritance, can never spoil, fade, or perish (1 Peter 1:4). It is kept in heaven, safe for us. In the meantime, we who keep believing in Christ, are shielded by God’s power (1 Peter 1:5). And so we have a living hope because we have been shown great mercy (not getting what we deserve) for our sins, an inheritance that is kept safe, and we are shielded by God’s power. We rejoice greatly in this living hope even though we have trials. But not merely by will power…

Why do we have trials, grief, or suffering? 1 Peter 1:7 says we have trials so our faith may be proved genuine, authentic, honest, and true. This authentic belief in Christ and what he has done leads to the praise, glory, and honor of Christ when He is revealed (because it was He who did it!) and genuine faith leads to being filled with an “inexpressible and glorious joy because we are receiving the goal of our faith”. 1 Peter 1:8-9

So it might stand to say that the reason we have little joy is because we are struggling in our faith in Christ. And the response to one another ought not to be “Just have more faith!”, but to tell God to have our faith made more genuine, more sincere and proven true.

God gives us trials so that by testing our faith and making it more genuine, we may have more joy. If we want more joy in Christ, we need to desire and ask for our faith to be tested so the un-authentic parts can be revealed, confronted, and removed. The result of authentic faith in Christ is praise, glory, and honor for Christ and inexpressible joy because we are being delivered from all harm, ruin, and loss.

Doesn’t everyone want the un-authentic parts of their faith removed? Well, it’s quite uncomfortable isn’t it? But, who really wants to say, “I want to keep the un-authentic parts of my faith!”? I suspect no one.

This is our plight as Christians. It turns out our childhood confessions of Christ as Lord and Savior need to be proved sincere. We are being ever tested that we might run the race and fight the good fight of faith through all circumstances. To endure the testing of our faith to that end (expressing and experiencing more praise for Christ and joy) we must grow up in our salvation (1 Peter 2:2) and we must not stumble because we disobey trusting in Christ (1 Peter 2:8).

Understanding that our trials are working FOR US to lead us away from death and INTO LIFE, as a GIFT from the Lord, Peter spends the rest of the letter persuading it’s readers to have the right perspective on trials so they may continue in faith, and so in the praise of Christ and joy.

To grow in faith and to not stumble in our suffering and grief we must:

  • Prepare our minds for action and be self-controlled so we can pray (1 Peter 4:7)
  • Abstain from sinful desires like malice, deceit, hypocrisy, envy, slander (1 Peter 2:1), don’t conform to evil desires, but be holy. Crave holiness! Sin wages war against our souls. Christ has brought us salvation from harm, ruin, and loss. Sin has brought us harm, ruin, and loss. Sin is the opposite of our goal. Resist the devil.
  • We ought to live good lives described in 1 Peter 2:12 to the end including repaying evil with goodness and submitting to all kinds of authority.
  • Do not be surprised by the suffering we are facing when suffering for Christ or doing good.
  • Commit, pledge, and bind ourselves to the faithful Creator, and continue to do good. (1 Peter 4:12)
  • We set our hope on GRACE as the gift of salvation we do not deserve and could not earn.
  • Take on the attitude or have a settled way of thinking that suffering helps us flee our evil fleshly desires, and live our lives for the will of God. 1 Peter 4:1-6

How do I respond when trials come? Why don’t I immediately think that God is testing my faith? That he wants me to have more joy in the promises of salvation and the hope of eternity? That he wants me to give him praise and glory? My immediate response is usually frustration, anger, and doubt. If it doesn’t feel good or work how I would like, I let that lead me to the conclusion that he’s doing something not good and, almost subconsciously, that God isn’t good. I pray that God gives me the settled way of thinking that the trials and suffering in my life are to refine my faith, to make it more genuine, because he wants me to glorify him and experience the inexpressible glory and joy from trusting in my savior. I pray that he refines my faith. I pray he tests my faith so the un-authentic parts can be revealed, confronted, and removed so all that’s left is faith and rejoicing. Test my faith Lord! Test my faith! Send me the trials to reveal the parts of my heart, soul, and mind that do not believe in your truth. Help me to not be afraid. Help me to consciously declare that you have given me suffering so that through my faith being refined I will praise you more and have more joy after being tested.

Amen.

 

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Anger Denatured into Gratitude

A once ridiculing, anxious soul is metamorphosing into unconditional gentleness. Where once was fear now is filled with peace and where once was guilt is now filled with hope.

My mother.

Unfortunately, in comparison to me- the steps I’d thought I’d taken to overcome bitterness and anger are now so clear against her grace filled love. My mom is transforming and I stopped somewhere a long the way. Or maybe I took a pause to clean out some old dusty cupboards of pain.


Being a child with divorced parents isn’t a whole ton of fun. It creates some sort of childhood trauma that manages to covertly infect most neural pathways to your mind and heart. Oh, memories! I sigh- and the purposely forgotten memories! And holidays- what a wonderful time to remember how broken your family is! This is not a rant, I promise. 

Through one recent conversation or another I found myself angry. It was something to do with plans and what dinner was at who’s house and why it was so unfair the kids had to go the other parents instead of coming to some Aunt’s house. Some sort of blame was exchanged…blah, blah, blah. I ended up angry towards my mom and then sort of stopped communicating, and really, what led up to that isn’t the important part, but I was angry and I left angry back to Iowa.

Along the 5 hour drive I meditated long and hard on my anger. At first I didn’t understand why, I just was, you know? So I just let myself be angry and sooner or later a cry for justice was to be found.

“It’s not fair!” I found myself exclaiming. There was a huge injustice done to me with my parents separating: I didn’t ask for it, I couldn’t do anything to stop it, and yet somehow I was in the middle of broken promises and lonely relationships. “What about justice?”

I let myself call out the injustice that had happened. It’s like there’s this imaginary pressure to not be impacted by divorce, like, it happens all the time or it’s not so bad or something. So all along the way of the last 10 years I’m bottling up this anger and sense of injustice inside, wanting to expressing it, but not knowing really what it is that I wanted to express. Yet I was letting it seep out every time my mom asked me when my dad is having thanksgiving or when I’m going over to his house.

Kind of ridiculous if you ask me now. Especially since she’s like this sweet lady who asks so prudently. Then I’m this ravenous wolf who just got punched on a wound.

So here I am in the car, “What about justice?” I say (seemingly to God) Of course, being God, he could almost laugh. Who could have a better understanding of unfair suffering than God? Jesus on the cross, anyone?

He doesn’t though- laugh, I mean. He comforts me by reminding me He knows about the injustice. It’s not fair. It’s not right. It’s not acceptable. He hates divorce! (Malachi 2:16)

Who could have a better understanding of unfair suffering than God?

And then of course, people kept sharing verses and articles on Facebook about unjust suffering and forgiveness…etc….. you know how that happens…

Verses like 1 Peter 2:19-25

For it is commendable if someone bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because they are conscious of God.

and 1 Peter 3:9

 Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.

Genesis 50:19-20

But Joseph said to them, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.

And then I almost felt the Spirit asking me “What kind of justice would you like?”

Well… I don’t know I guess, I thought, it’s not like I want them punished (they believe in Jesus and his forgiveness and are in enough of their own pain) and in all actuality having them back together probably wouldn’t make anything much better either…. I guess I just wanted someone to hear me say it wasn’t fair. 

So I emailed my mom and apologized and helped her understand why I was so angry all the time. She apologized for her part, I apologized for mine and we both agreed to work towards forgiveness. I thanked her profusely for her grace as she is always so kind to me when I am unkind. She doesn’t mind the hits because she loves me so much and that’s pretty amazing.

That was all a month ago. On the drive back home for Thanksgiving today I asked myself what kind of attitude I was going to have this time. I prayed for a gentle one and I realized anything other than that would be a cry for justice. Then I asked myself, “How long will you cry out? How many do you need to hear you say it? Will it ever be enough?”

You’ve said it. It’s been heard. By God, by your mom, and by a lot of others. It’s been taken care of and it’s time to move on now. It’s time to be grateful for what you do have (believing parents, a home, food, people who love you, clothes, a job, income, school, air to breathe) and to be content with the portion God has given you. It’s time to stop looking at your circumstances with a microscope….

It’s time to be thankful. And so I shall!

Happy Thanksgiving! May God help you understand what good He is doing through your unjust suffering and unfortunate circumstances.

“Understanding unjust suffering is about not getting God to change your circumstances but beginning to understand how your circumstances are a part of His divine plan and you responding to that plan.”              Overcoming Unjust Suffering, Living on The Edge

 

The Source

Trust The Lord with all your heart, lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your path straight. Proverbs 3

This is a pretty great verse for life, and (obviously) especially a life lived for God. It has a command, a call to humbleness, a practical, and a promise.

A desire I have for my life that God has called us all to is to love Him and love others (Matthew 22:37). What that looks like can be scary if you stop reading there- especially when you hear the great commission to go to all the nations and making disciples, people to follow Jesus (Matthew 28:18). It’s also scary when I start measuring how the Holy Spirit is working by the number of people I share my story with or the good news of Jesus. I start looking at the works as an outlook of the source instead of just looking right at the source Himself.

The verse in proverbs 3 at the top is taking at look at the source of Life. First, I trust The Lord with all my heart. Honestly, I hardly know what that means but I think it’s similar to John 7:38: “whoever believes in me as the scriptures has said , streams of living water will flow from within him.”

Wow. If I believe in Him according to what the scriptures say… and not “on my own understanding” streams of living water will flow out from within me… And you know what happens when that happens…. I will “acknowledge Him in all my ways”. And if I can acknowledge Him in all my ways it attests I’m trusting Him based on truth from scripture and God promises to make my paths straight!

If my paths are straight… What does that mean? This is something I’m learning about and don’t quite have the answer to. I do know it doesn’t mean there won’t be suffering because Romans 8:17 says through Jesus and his work on the cross for our sins we are children of God, heirs of God, and through our suffering we are co-heirs with Christ’s suffering, but also His glory.

Wisdom leads not to folly, so it seems reasonable to suggest success is also apart of having straight paths… But I think it means more than worldly success. I think it’s about living a straight path of righteousness, which doesn’t always entail worldly success. If my path is not straight and level, I will stumble and fall, hurting myself regardless of the surroundings my path leads through whether I’m rich or poor, married or single, home or away, crying or thriving.

Proverbs 15:24 says “the path of life leads upwards for the wise to keep him from going down into the grave.”

I desire my paths to be straight, but I know that as I trust God in truth and acknowledge Him in ALL my ways… He will indeed make my path straight and I pray He would keep that promise according to His great love! If I’m acknowledging Him in all my ways… I’m going to share the gospel because that is apart of everything I am or do.

A book I’ve been reading and got a lot of these thoughts from is The Love of God by Chambers.

Carry on in faith.