Trusting Jesus with my joy

What if I don’t get what I want?

I have been asking my heart this for months now. If I don’t get what I want, is God still good? Can I still hope in Him? Can it be that not getting what I want (or think I want) is actually what’s good for me?

Of course it can. Earthly loss is heavenly gain, and this has been one of the sweetest truths I’ve learned in my life. I am so grateful for a God who calls us to joys greater than earth can offer. I am glad that He is so sovereign and so powerful and so loving that things like hearing loss or loneliness or grief don’t faze Him β€” and not only do they not faze Him, He uses them to accomplish His purposes, for our good and for His glory. I mean, that is crazy to think about! I could spend the whole rest of my life pondering this and still never exhaust all the nuances of this precious and very great promise.

But so comfortable have I become with this idea of loss that when God pulls a God and graciously gives all things, I’m reluctant to accept them because I’m convinced they’ll be taken away later. I’ve twisted Job’s words to mean, “The Lord gives so that He can take away.” Better not get attached, I think. Better not give my heart a chance to elevate gifts above Giver. 

I like to think I’m being holy when I do that, when I acknowledge God’s gifts with a polite smile, then set them aside so I can assure Him, with lofty prayers, that there is nothing on earth I desire besides Him. I do this because I want to earn my sanctification somehow, and I do this as a preemptive move so that it doesn’t sting quite as much when He takes the gift away.

How small my view of my God! Father, forgive me.

Things of Earth

I’m reading “The Things of Earth: Treasuring God by Enjoying His Gifts” by Joe Rigney right now. I’m taking my time with it, and I’m only on chapter five, but my mind? It is blown already.

Don’t hold one biblical truth so closely that you refuse to let all of Scripture speak. Don’t despair when your mind aches because of the tension. You should expect paradox; you should expect mystery; you should expect to have your categories blown, and your mind stretched, and your heart expanded so that you can take in more and more of God. (emphasis mine, p. 56)

I was feeling a bit in despair the other night, over some old sin or another, and fled to Romans 8. I went for the no condemnation; I stayed for graciously give us all things.

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. …

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? (Romans 8:1-2, 31-32)

Graciously give us all things. 

Mind. Blown.
I will testify, again and again, that my hearing loss has brought me to God over and over. That my loneliness drove me to His arms, and I have never experienced sweeter comfort elsewhere. I would gladly do it all again just for that comfort, just for knowing that the Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those crushed in spirit. He gives Himself in our loss, for sure.
And He gives good things, too, for life and godliness. For life and godliness. There were times when I wished the Lord would make all my hearing friends and family understand me completely and communicate with me perfectly. Sometimes He was gracious to grant them, if not complete understanding, then compassion and a willingness to learn. The desire of my heart, though, was for people who intimately knew and shared all the ups and downs that come with being hard of hearing. And God, oh, He is so kind, and He did it! He gave me a group of friends who get it. They get the hearing aids and the audiologist appointments and the advocacy and the exhaustion and the humor. Because they are hard of hearing, too. I look around at us sometimes, and I marvel, how did we all end up here together? We’re all over the map spiritually, socially, socioeconomically. Surely only Jesus could do this. 
If it’s true that God graciously gives us all things, then it must be true that my friends are a gift from Him. Knowing them has helped me work through my own insecurities about being hard of hearing, introduced me to practical communication solutions and, overall, brought me joy. They are funny. They are kind. They are supportive. They aren’t skittish. We’ve talked and even argued a little and made fun of each other and traveled (a true test of friendship if there ever was one!) and laughed and cried. I think most of them would not consider themselves the churchgoing kind, but that has not stopped me from learning more about God and about myself from them.

He has given them to me for my joy, and I am grateful.

Trusting Jesus with my joy

There have been times, and I mean even recent times, where I’ve been convinced that since my wants haven’t materialized the way I want them to, that God must be withholding for my good. I want good and godly friendships, especially at church. I want to not be single, especially at church. πŸ™‚ When no answers to these prayers seem forthcoming, it’s easy and strangely comforting to fall back on what I’ve always known, that dying is gain, that loss is gain, that not having something can be just as good for me β€” if not better β€” than having it. To stake my hope on the fact the Jesus alone is the desire of my heart.

My church’s pastor is so faithful in preaching that following Jesus costs something. I have heard this many times in the last few months, and more than a few Sundays have left nearly in tears, wondering, Is this what following Jesus is going to cost me? Friendship? Companionship? Marriage? Have You called me to a lonelier life than I would like? Are You taking away so I might gain Christ?

When I look at Scripture, though, I think that can’t be. Leaf through any of Paul’s letters and see how many people he loved, and who loved and served with him. If God calls His kids to Himself, then He’s also called us to His family. When I’m lonely, it’s good to trust that Jesus is enough, but it’s also good to trust that He puts the lonely in families. I don’t know what families. The biological one I was born into? The spiritual one I was adopted into? The hearing loss one I was invited into? A brand-new family of my own making? A completely different one I never could have imagined? Some? All? Those I don’t know, nor does God have any obligation to tell me right now.

He only calls me to trust that He fills the hungry with good things, that He satisfies the longing soul, and that there is a way to enjoy His gifts because they come from Him.

Note this: God acts. God meets the need. God gives life and breath and all things (including companionship). But God has designed us so that he would meet some of our needs through other people. We ought not dispute with God on this point. There’s no virtue in being more spiritual than he is here. Infinite wisdom directed him to mediate his all-satisfying presence to us through suitable created companions. (The Things of Earth, p. 82, bold emphasis mine)

I am not holier than God. I cannot be holier than God. My lofty and winsome prayers, good intentions and self-imposed self-denial do not impress Him. Because of Romans 8:2, I can trust Romans 8:32. Because Jesus has shattered the law of sin and death, I am free β€” free to find my joy beyond this world, free to trust that there is something better up ahead, that my light and momentary troubles will only serve to increase my joy in the life to come. I am also free to trust Jesus with my joy now, to trust that He Himself is my joy, that we have a Father who graciously gives all things because it delights Him to do so, because my joy brings Him glory, because God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.

Treasuring God by Enjoying His gifts

Could it be that sometimes the more God-glorifying thing to do is not to hold His gifts lightly, but to enjoy them to the full, to squeeze every ounce of joy out of them? If I don’t get what I want, I can trust Jesus with my joy, because He is storing up for me an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled and unfading (1 Peter 1:4). If I do get what I want, I can trust Jesus with my joy, not because He is a way to get what I want, but because HE is what I want, and His gifts are ways for me to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.

When I give my nephew and nieces gifts, it makes me happy when they have fun with what I’ve given. When they bring me the book I wrapped for them and we read it together. Or when I dole out the Valentine’s candy and sneak a Hershey’s kiss from their stash. It would make me sad if I gave them something, and they took one look at it and said, “That’s nice, now play with me.” I mean, I would still play with them, because what are aunts for πŸ™‚ but I would think, “But I got this for you because I love you! Don’t you like it?!”

I wonder if it grieves God’s heart when I’m dismissive or even fearful of His gifts. He gives them for my joy, and He even delights in my delight. To turn up my nose at what He so freely offers might make me feel holy, but it robs me of my joy and satisfaction in Christ, which in turn means my heart is not glorifying God as it ought to.

I haven’t mastered this lesson yet, but I can feel my mind changing. My heart yielding. Even my prayers have taken on new life as He teaches me to enjoy His gifts in a way that doesn’t rob me of my joy or in a way that elevates gifts above Giver.

I mean, is this good stuff or what? There should be, like, a name for this or something. (Keep your eyes on that John Piper fella, guys. I think he’s going places.)

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