Fighting for Joy: Discouragement

In order to give you a little more context into my previous post about fighting for joy, it’s necessary that I show you some of my journey to find healing for my body and how distorted my view of joy really was.

Since I studied abroad in France in the spring of 2010, my health had been on the decline. My body suffered through days of extreme exhaustion, followed by nights of restless sleep. This affected my moods, how I interacted with friends and family, and my relationship with God.

For two years, I saw doctor after doctor (I think I’ve counted 8 doctors), hoping they would give me some answers as to why I was so fatigued or why this girl in her early 20’s felt like an 80-year-old. I was tested over and over again for mono, diabetes, etc. by these doctors. And once my tests came back normal, the majority of the doctors passed me off like there was nothing wrong, and they made me think I was crazy. I just became more and more discouraged, disheartened, and frustrated. The breaking point came this September when a doctor told me, “There’s nothing anyone can do for you. No one treats fatigue.”

So often during the past few years, I prayed to God for healing. I knew God was sovereign over this and in control of my situation, but I really began to doubt His goodness for me. I believed He was good to everyone else, but for some reason, He was just not being good to me. I didn’t understand why I couldn’t find a doctor, or why He was letting this happen to me. I often cried out, “Lord, I know You can heal me by just saying the word. So why aren’t You? What are You doing?”

Through all of this, I was failing in my fight for joy. Failing to cling to the joy that is in being in a relationship with the God of the universe. Failing to see the joy of a Savior who died the death I deserved, so that I could have life. Failing to notice that it was my anger, my attitude, my bitterness, my doubt, my sin that strangled my joy. Failing to see God working in the midst.

James 1:2-4 says, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (emphasis added)

James 1:2-4

“Pure joy? Pure joy?” I thought. “How do You expect me to get joy out of this trial? Because I’m definitely not seeing it that way.”

But, like I said in the last post, God, in His kindness did not leave me there. Soon after the encounter with the discouraging doctor, I had a conversation with my friend (the conversation I mentioned in the last post). When I asked my friend how this could be for my good, she responded by saying, “In His kindness, He doesn’t leave you as you are. The Lord cares too much to leave you unchanged.”

And with that, God made something click in my heart. While I was in this state of anger and doubt, God graciously and gently reminded me that this was and is for my good. And only by His grace did He show me that He truly does work all things together for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28). He is working for the good of my heart.

Friends, God does care about your circumstances. He knows your heart, and He knows every need. But could it be that God cares even more about the state of your heart?

But you say, “Rachel, you have no idea what I’m going through. This is hard stuff. There is no joy in it.”

To that, I respond, He loves you too much to leave you as you are. By no means am I suggesting that fighting for joy is easy. But we do have a perfect model of joy through Jesus.

Hebrews 12:1-3 says, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”

There is a Savior who loves you so much that He willingly died to bring you life. For the joy set before Him, He endured the cross for you. Will you receive the life and joy that comes only through Him?

Here’s a sneak peek at more posts in this series, coming soon:

We Can’t Do Anything on Our Own   |   Freedom Through Pain and Trial

Praising Him in All Circumstances  |  Sovereignty vs. Goodness  |  Uncomfortable Grace

Strength in Weakness   |   What We Can Learn From Joseph

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23 Things

In honor of launching this new blog, and because I just celebrated my *gasp* 23rd birthday, I decided it would be fitting to post the top 23 things I’ve learned about life, about Jesus, and about myself in the past year. (Of course, there are other things I could’ve added, but I had to stop somewhere!)

Beach Pic

(Photo courtesy of Alex Menrisky. Cannes, France 2010)

23. No matter how many times I watch them, The Big Bang Theory and Friends will always make me laugh audibly.

22. Rocking out to JBiebs, TSwift, and One Direction is a lot more fun when you’re with friends. (I also pride myself on knowing the token rap portions to pop songs.)

21. Choosing to thank God in the all circumstances is like saying, “Lord, I trust You despite my situation.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18) This contributes to our joy.

20. Friends in ministry always told me that the first year of fulltime ministry would be the hardest and that ministry is like a magnet that rockets brokenness to the surface. I don’t know about the first part because I can’t compare it to anything yet, I definitely agree with the latter. So, yes, it’s difficult, but it’s good for me. (James 1:2-5)

19. Sanctification is a privilege not a punishment. Yes, it can be painful, but God loves us too much to leave us unchanged. (Philippians 1:6)

18. I am in dire need of God’s grace every moment of every day. His grace is a gift (Ephesians 2:8-9) and His grace is sufficient (2 Corinthians 12).

17. The Lord sustains me. (“I wake again because the Lord sustains me.” –Psalm 3:5) I don’t think this truth has ever been so clear to me as it was this year. In the midst of extreme fatigue, the Lord provided me with the strength, and continues to give me enough strength to get me through each day. And in the midst, the Lord also provides rest (Matthew 11:28-30) and restoration (Psalm 23).

16. Traveling is probably one of my absolute favorite things to do. So far, I’ve been to 14 countries. And I have no desire to stop there. I can’t seem to go a year without going out of the country.

15. I have a deep desire to help fulfill the Great Commission. Jesus says in Matthew 28, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Call me crazy, but I want to see Jesus come back.

14. My time in Morocco was incredibly challenging. But I’ve realized recently that if I added ministry and discipleship to what I did when I was there, I would have my absolute dream job. Combining French, journalism, travel, missions, and Jesus — that would make for a killer career.

13. As much as I don’t like to admit this, I don’t have my life figured out. Or even the next year. This is highly unusual, because I’m a planner. But I’m convinced this is God’s way of saying to me, “Trust Me.”

12. God has created me to be me and to love Him. He knows my heart and because of Jesus, loves me anyway. My past, present, and future are all in under His control. (Psalm 139, Jeremiah 29)

11. I love France. But I think you already knew that. I’ve adored France and the French language since I was 6. Does visiting France five times make it an obsession??

10. I absolutely love people and being involved in others’ lives. But I still cherish my alone time.

9. I get really emotionally involved in good movies, TV shows, and books.

8. I prefer deep conversation to small talk.

7. Leading and shepherding women in their walks with Jesus is one of the most fulfilling jobs I could have. In my opinion, some of the best ways to invest time and money is in relationships with God, relationships with people, missions and sharing Jesus with the world.

6. The Lord has blessed me with an amazing family and wonderful friends who love me as I am and constantly point me back to Jesus.

5. Cooking and baking relax me. Trying new recipes is an exciting adventure for me, especially ethnic foods or vegan baked goods. (I like trying new restaurants, too!)

4. My ideal day would be spent at a café in Europe surrounded by cobblestone streets and old architecture, sitting outside, sipping café au lait, journaling, reading, watching people walk by, and having good conversation with anyone who is with me.

3. Taking steps of faith is hard, but God wants us to live and live abundantly. Cru’s definition of successful evangelism is “Taking steps of faith in the power of the Holy Spirit and leaving the results to God.” This doesn’t just apply to evangelism, but to your daily walk with Jesus. What an adventure God calls us to!

2. Living for Jesus does not make life easy, and when you become a believer, your life doesn’t become perfect. Jesus calls us to take up our crosses and follow Him. (Mark 8:34-35). But following Jesus is worth it. And we aren’t left alone, we have incredible power in the Spirit that’s inside believers. We believers often forget that.

1. The reward for following Jesus is Jesus. It’s that simple. We don’t follow Jesus to receive blessings or crowns in Heaven or even to get to Heaven. While those are great, I’ll say again, the reward for following Jesus is Jesus.

As you look back at the past year, what have you learned about yourself? About life? About God?