"Nehemiah said, "Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is sacred to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength." Nehemiah 8:10
"The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and I am helped. My heart leaps for joy and I will give thanks to him in song." Psalm 28:7
November has become my favorite month. It really is a time to be thankful and spend time celebrating God's provision. No matter how the provision has seemed. I mentioned a few weeks ago our blessings chart on the fridge. Any normal person would walk into our kitchen, see this list (which has grown a lot, by the way) and see all these little things and ask what on earth we were so thankful for! A few pieces of meat, a few meager dollars, a tank of gas... really? And we're so incredibly thankful for these tiny little blessings? Yes, yes we are. Because every little thing is a gift from God. Every. Thing. Every small thing tells me that God is watching over us, and He knows exactly what we need.
There's a trick that I've discovered though to getting through the tough times, and that is joy. It may not be a new trick, but it's there nonetheless. And imagine that, I found this trick right in my Bible. Nehemiah 8:10 says "the joy of the Lord is my strength" the key word here being joy. It is joy that gets us through every thing that is difficult. I was just reading somewhere this morning where someone asked if anyone there takes anything for stress. I actually giggled to myself and crafted a reply in my head that yeah, I take joy. In any form I can get it sometimes. I can wake up with the biggest headache in the world, I can feel like just staying in bed for the day, but then one of my children will walk into the room with the biggest smile on their face, ready to greet the new day, and it's infectious. Sometimes I need to find joy by watching something funny that makes me laugh. Other times I'll put on some exciting music and let it energize me.
Everything I do, I do it joyfully. There are some days where I can really feel the world pressing in, trying to break through that joy. And other things threaten. Despair threatens a lot these days, as the finances seem really grim. I'll tell you, more than once I've found myself in a bad mood about an hour or so before it's time to go to church. In such a bad mood, I'm thinking about not going. Oh, thank God for His joy and the Holy Spirit, because I recognize that foul spirit and I start singing some praise to myself. Before long, the music in my head has gotten rid of that bad mood and I can look forward to worship with my church family.
Something else that really presses in on me, trying to distract me, is the feeling of inadequacy. I really have to battle that one away sometimes. I spend a lot of time listening to preachers and evangelists encouraging believers to "go into all the world" and I find myself questioning what I am doing. I question myself, am I really supposed to stay at home with these children? Are we really doing the right thing my homeschooling? Maybe we'd be better off if I sent them to school and I got a job- we'd certainly be doing better in the area of money. But then I open up my Bible and I see that I am just as I should be.
"I can do everything through him who gives me strength." Philippians 4:13
I can do EVERYTHING through him who gives me strength. And where does that strength come from?
"for the joy of the LORD is your strength." Nehemiah 8:10
When I can do everything through Him who gives me strength, that means everything! It means that I can be the best mom that I can be, and I can be the best housewife that I can be- because God's giving me the strength for all of it.
"for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances." Philippians 4:11
The first thing I need to do when these negative feelings come on me is to thank God for my current situation. I thank Him for the gift of my children, for my husband, for the roof over our heads, and for the groceries in the fridge. I am thankful to God for the opportunity to teach my children every day, for the opportunity to care for these beautiful children day in and day out. I must thank God in all things! I am thankful for every little thing. And as I am giving thanks to God in all that I do, I find that I start to believe myself. I believe that I am thankful that I am "just" a housewife, and I am thankful for every opportunity that a new day presents.
And then, with that thankful mindset, I can set to my tasks joyfully. Yesterday I scrubbed my kitchen floor and my kitchen cupboards, and I did so joyfully. Sounds crazy, I know, but I smiled as I scrubbed away at the grime and the dirt, thanking God for the desire to clean. When I can be thankful and joyful in all situations, I find that I am happy and I am content. My circumstances may seem pathetic to some, but for me, I am content exactly where I am at this exact moment.
And you too can have this contentment. First, be thankful for whatever your situation- and yes, be thankful for the problems and the struggles too, because you will come out of them. You, with God's help, will triumph over those struggles and will find yourself much stronger because of it. If you work in a bakery, and spend your early mornings in a hot kitchen baking loaf of bread after loaf of bread, be thankful for the opportunity and make every loaf of bread with the joy of the Lord in your heart. If you are a mechanic, be the best mechanic you can be, because God gave you that unique ability to understand machinery. He made you for such a time as this- a time when people need mechanics. As people are looking for ways to save, they will turn to their mechanics to try and salvage their vehicles instead of spending money on a new one. It is your turn then to bless them. To repair their vehicles to the absolute best of your ability- and when you do that, they will tell others about the great job you are doing- and how you were so honest and up front and nice, and how you didn't overcharge them. And God will bless you richly for it.
"The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.' " Matthew 25:40
I will be content in whatever situation I am in. With thanksgiving in my heart and joy in hand, I can do ALL things, through HIM who gives me STRENGTH.