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Thursday, July 7, 2016

Freedom in Joy

Sometimes you're blessed. Sometimes you're lucky. Sometimes, you're both of those things in spite of how badly some people want to mess it up for you. Sometimes, when it seems like everything in life wants to hold you down, you just can't help but feel like you're flying high. 

God's people are supposed to be joyous. "Shout aloud and sing for joy, people of Zion, for great is the Holy One of Israel among you." Isaiah 12:6. We're supposed to be joyous even in the midst of trials and tribulations (James 1:2-3). We have much to be joyful about: our salvation is assured, our King reigns, our God sustains and our Savior will return. Those are all great things! 

What we (read: I) often struggle with is finding joy in the simple things. In the same way that God blesses you with salvation, God blesses you in small ways every day that we take for granted. 

I'll give a great example. Months and months ago, I was playing Trials of Osiris in Destiny. I had yet to go on a flawless 9-0 run yet and travel to the Lighthouse. My team and I were 8-0: we were right on the cusp, but we had already used our one "get out of jail free card" on an earlier loss. This was it. Win or go home. I prayed, yes I very selfishly prayed, that God would help me and my team win. I felt more than a little ridiculous for praying for something as silly as a win in a video game, but I wanted it so badly. 

My team stomped our way to a 5-2 win and made our way to the Lighthouse. Quietly (it was late) I fist pumped and felt a warm flood of triumphant happiness flow through me. I prayed again and I thanked God for the gift of victory. 

Now this all seems really silly. I'm sure at least some of you are probably already thinking of ways to rebuke me for praying something so stupid or for finding so much happiness in something so trivial. But...I often can't help but feel that was one of my most honest moments I've ever had with God. I knew that I wanted to win and that I wanted to experience the victor's circle in my game. I knew I wanted it badly and I was completely honest in letting God know how badly I wanted it. So I asked him for it. And God, in what ever way he chooses to work in competitive arenas, chose to let me have my wish. And I thanked him for it. Profusely

Sometimes, it's not in the momentous, but in the mundane that we are most honest with God. Sometimes it's when He can show us most effectively how much he loves us. We expect God to help us when our backs are against the wall and there is no way out. We don't expect God to care about the little things we do every day. We even train ourselves to think that God is somehow not involved in "trivial" matters like who wins our kids soccer game or whether or not it rains during our vacation. The truth, if we allow ourselves to see it, is that even these small things are ways in which our perfect heavenly Father shows how much he loves his children. 

He loves you when you win. He loves you when you lose. He loves you enough to hold off the rain when you're in the Bahamas and loves you enough to gift you with the beauty of rain when you are in the mountains. He loves you so much that, like any father, he wants to show you in little ways each and every day. 

But you have to see it. We have to open our eyes to be aware of it. I'm at a point in my life where the grueling work of ministry is weighing ever heavier on me. Things aren't as easy or simple as they once were. There are more expectations and higher stakes than ever before. Sin tries (and often succeeds) to put me on the ground. Yet, miraculously, my eyes have been opened ever so slightly to just how much my Father gives me every day: whether it be a hilarious hour or two with my friends playing video games, a wonderful afternoon with my significant other, or coming home to my favorite dish on the dinner table. 

And I am blessed. Or lucky. Or a little of both. Either way, I haven't felt so joyously free in a long time. Perhaps ever, and for that I am grateful. 

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