Monday, June 17, 2013

A Certain Strength

When our oldest daughter was a sophomore in high school, she went through a period of time when life appeared to drain the joy out of her.  There was no particular cause she could put her finger on.  But at that age, it doesn't take much for one's world to crumble, a disappointing grade on a paper, the everyday fluctuations of tentative friendships, or a word or two taken out of context.  One evening, she burst into tears.  "What's the matter, sweetie?" I asked her.

"I don't know," she sobbed.

Sometimes life is like that.

To combat those feelings of woe, I challenged her to "look for the joy" the next day.  "There isn't any," she replied with a gloomy voice.   But the next evening when she returned from school, she walked into the kitchen with a list of small delights.

This exercise of pursuing joy is not an artificially-sweetened "look on the bright side," nor ignoring what is swirling around, but grasping the reality of God's Presence.  It is not looking for "God to show up," as indeed He is the one who is waiting on us -- we who are tardy in recognizing His hand.

It is a change in mindset, a refocusing to see beyond the obvious to know that He is there, looking for that point of joy, searching diligently for a path through the miry bog.  That path is manifest sometimes by one steppingstone at a time. a single point of praise.  LORD, show me how to navigate this day.

Praise the LORD!
Praise the name of the LORD,
    give praise,
        O servants of the LORD.

                             Psalm 135.1

When things seem so  overwhelming, I am reminded of Saint Paul, confined in a squalid prison, who wrote a letter of joy to the Philippians.  He trained himself in joy in the midst of hardship.  He recognized a divergence in the path -- to be overwhelmed by dismay or practice the presence of God. Two paths, choose one.

Finally brethren. whatever is true,
whatever is honorable,
whatever is just,
whatever is pure,
whatever is commendable,
if there is any excellence,
if there is anything worthy of praise,
        think about these things.
What you have learned and received
and heard and seen in me --
   practice these things,
and the God of peace will be with you.

                          Philippians 4.8-9

Think about these things,
practice these things,
and see how God transforms you.
Your situation may not change
         but you will.
In praise there is a certain strength
    that comes from God  alone

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