Contending for joy

Life is a little turbulent at the moment. Regular readers of this blog will know exactly what I’m talking about but if you need a little catch up you’ll find the details here. In the weeks since our plans turned upside down we have been exploring other ways to go to Jamaica. We cast a wide net of enquiries, talking to people we know, friends in Jamaica, anyone who had an auntie’s granny who might know someone on the island. We are praying that if God has a plan b that we will find it by faithfully pushing a lot of doors until the right one opens. We have a lot of possibilities still on the table but this morning another answer came back as a no. And it’s one that, in the quiet of my heart, I thought would be a strong contender.

And so once again I find myself sitting in disappointment, keeping company with frustration, finding tears my only means of praying.

waves

And once again I have to choose how to face this day.

A friend said to me recently, by way of encouragement, “I see you contending for joy, contending for hope in the midst of this.” Her choice of words grabbed my attention because at an earlier point of this process I found myself having to contend for peace and I learned a valuable lesson.

Peace, hope and joy don’t immediately strike me as things I should have to contend for. Surely these are all things that God would want to bestow upon me, like a beautiful comforting blanket to keep me cosy and comfortable. In times that are the most difficult, surely I shouldn’t have to make any effort to find the things I need most.

I do think that there are times when God gives us some of these things in supernatural abundance – but even then we have to ask for them. All of these things lie on the other side of a choice. When life doesn’t go my way I can default to bitterness and resentment, or I can choose to trust the one who knows the end from the beginning. When I am confused and uncertain about what lies ahead I can give in to fear or I can declare peace over my circumstances, again and again if I must, until that peace becomes my reality. When another day awaits of pedalling on, uphill and into the wind, I can complain and grumble all I like but it won’t make the time pass any quicker. Or I can choose to look around me, and see the beauty in that moment, find the simplest of joys and make that my delight.

It only struck me this morning, as I looked once again at Philippians 4, that the way not to be anxious about anything is by prayer and petition, and with thanksgiving, presenting our requests by God. We have to ask for the peace we need. And immediately afterwards Paul encourages us to fix our minds on what is true, lovely and admirable. I had always read those verses in isolation until today. But they are connected because they are all about what you choose. We can choose to be thankful in our prayers when we look for what is good.

None of this is to deny what is difficult. Sit with your sorrow and allow the tears to fall. If those are the only prayers you have then God will receive them as such. But then you have a choice. To stay in that moment and let those circumstances define your day.

Or look up. Ask for help.

Contend for peace. Contend for hope. Contend for joy.

 

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