Restore The Joy
I've heard it said that you don't know who you really are until you have to go through a crisis. Or, to put it another way, it's when your character is tested that you discover if you have any.
I've been reflecting a lot lately on how all of the things that are happening in my life (moving twice in less than four months, chief among those) have tested my character and what they've revealed about me. I'm not sure I've done all that well. I can't say that I've exactly been filled with the joy of the Lord through everything.
It's probably showed more than a time or two, I'm afraid.
Those of us who call ourselves Christians constantly need to be reevaluating what the people around us experience when they encounter us. Do they experience the joy of the Lord when they are around us, or something else?
In his novel Godric, Frederick Buchener wrote about a monk named Elric who prayed and sang about God's love and the joy of salvation, but what everyone else experienced was something completely other than joy:
"Perched in his oak [Elric would] sing his psalms... But he looked so sour even as he sang, it was as if the sound of all those merry revels hurt his ears."
In his novel The Second Coming, Walker Percy writes about Christians who claim to have a corner on the market when it comes to truth, but their truth doesn't seem to bring them any joy, and definitely doesn't bring any to others:
"They are generally speaking a pleasant and agreeable lot... But if they have the truth, why is it the case that they are repellant precisely to the degree that they embrace and advertise the truth?"
During this trying and challenging season of Lent, I find myself coming back to Psalm 51 more than once. These words have become my constant prayer lately:
10 Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
11 Do not cast me from your presence
or take your Holy Spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation
and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.
If you are struggling to connect with the joy of your salvation today, pray this ancient prayer... and then pray it again, and as many times as you need throughout the day. I'll be praying it alongside you throughout this Lenten journey we are on together.
May the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.