To ALL the Leaders out there – leader of a ministry, a group, or a mentor to one other woman – God sees you as a leader!
At Renewing the Heart,
we understand these challenges of leadership.
It’s what Woman2Woman is all about.
In this world you will have trouble. Take heart, I have overcome the world!
Labor pain is not a pain that is easy to describe. Every woman who has birthed a babe knows. Someone once told me that I would forget the pain once the baby was in my arms. I can’t say that happened for me, but I certainly can say the memory faded quickly.
In May, I started reading the Bible from beginning to end, something I haven’t done in years. It’s easy when in Genesis and Exodus where the stories are interesting and semi-familiar. But now it has sludged to a crawl in Leviticus, but I trust it will pickup again when I hit Joshua and Judges.
But, backtracking for a second, in Genesis 3 God’s punishment for Adam and Eve for the eating-the-wrong-fruit sin captured my fascination. I returned to it a couple of times as I was reminded of the consequence.to.reward ratio for the punishments.
This assuredness of pain wasn’t taken away at the coming of our Lord. It wasn’t taken away by the resurrection, or by our Comforter within us.
But God gives joy after pain in so many instances in the Bible, and in our own lives.
When Jesus was explaining to the disciples that he would be going away, he used the analogy of a woman in labor, having joy at the bringing a baby into the world. Then he said,
So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice and no one will take away your joy. ~John 16.22
These disciples didn’t have the Bible laying on their laps. They couldn’t page ahead to know that Jesus would come back after dying; that Jesus would send the Spirit to comfort and teach and empower them to take his gospel into the world. They had the man they loved, the man they followed and believed in, sitting in front of them, telling them he was going away.
Then he did.
I don’t know how many of them remembered these words of Jesus. As they scattered and scurried away from the Garden in fear, did they recall and were they comforted by the hope of it?
Then he returned. And their joy must have been overwhelming.
If we have faith in the midst of our pain, in the midst of confusion and betrayal and hurt and sadness, joy will return.
God never leaves us, no matter what we are going through.
He will deliver.
They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away. ~Isaiah 35.10
For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. ~Romans 8.38-39
Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. ~1 Peter 5.7
In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust and am not afraid. What can mere mortals do to me? ~Psalm 56.4
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not be afraid. ~John 14.27
In this world you will have trouble.
Take heart, I have overcome the world!
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness. ~Matthew 5:6
There are plenty of places to find people literally starving to death in this world. Somalia, Yemen, Sudan, and many other places have millions that go to bed hungry every night. The stated cause in many articles is “poverty,” ranging from war to famine, coupled with poor food distribution systems, and unethical governments.
Famine has become a word many are familiar with around the world. Interestingly, it is not because there is not enough food produced. According to several articles I read, there’s plenty of food. Many people just don’t have enough money to buy it.
A friend was recently telling me about a situation she is facing with other Christians. She is trying to speak the truth of scriptures about some things they used to agree were sin. Now, they are rejecting the truth as if what she’s telling them is my friend’s “suggestion,” rather than God’s Law.
As she spoke, I was thinking that there is no hunger for what God’s Word says.
In Acts 17, the Bible gives us an example of people who were hungry for God’s Word. Paul and Silas were sent to Berea to protect them from attacks against them for peaching about Christ in Thessalonica.
When they got there, they went to the synagogue to teach. Here’s the Bereans’ reaction to their teaching:
Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. ~Acts 17.11
It scares me that so many in our culture are quick to reject the Word of God without ever checking to find out if it’s true. It reminds me of the physical hunger, where there is plenty of food but few resources to purchase it. People in physical hunger have real obstacles to getting what they need.
Spiritually, there are no obstacles. There is an abundance of the real Word of God available in this nation. It is easy to get and cheap, if not free. We have no excuse for not trying to understand what God’s Law says and why we should follow it.
We just need to pick up God’s Word and check what others tell us, even our pastors.
God has been gracious to us, slow to anger, and abounding in His steadfast love (Psalm 103:8). He is exactly as the Bible describes Him.
God makes a promise to those who were refusing to listen to His Word.
“Behold, the days are coming,” declares the Lord GOD, “when I will send a famine on the land — not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD.” ~Amos 8.11
Will it take a famine of the Word of God to make people want what He has offered us in this Book that teaches us all we need to know about Him and His Law?
Rejoice in the Lord Always, and I will say it again, Rejoice! ~Philippians 4.4
I love this verse so much. But not just because it says to rejoice. It’s the way it is written. The words make me want to throw my hands up in the air, or clap aloud, or dance in a circle, just oozing with an uncontrollable joy.
Ok. Maybe that’s just me. But whatever.
I find it so very interesting that this seemingly raucous invitation to experience God’s joy follows so closely on the heels of a plea to help two women reconcile their differences.
Now, these weren’t just people of the community, random parishioners, occasional attenders. These were women that Paul described as having ‘contended at my side in the cause of the Gospel.’ These were women on the front lines spreading the message of Jesus, believers boldly out there in a society that shunned their Savior, their faith. These were no minor figures in the Philippi church. Their names were in the ‘book of life.’ They were co-workers with Paul in building Christ’s church.
This conflict had some crucial ramifications for the church. (Just think of what conflict today between church leaders does to the world’s opinion of our faith.) Paul believed there was a lesson to be had, even in their conflict. Pleading for them to reconcile, Paul switches immediately to joy.
In the Renewing the Heart devotional, Choose Joy, I wrote this:
Perhaps we have too often ignored the role that rejoicing plays in reconciliation. Maybe resolving conflict is less about us, and more about God. Maybe it’s about getting our mind on the important – God – rather than staying on the unimportant – our conflict. That doesn’t negate reconciliation, and solving the conflict. Rather, it encourages us to make sure to return quickly to the bigger picture.
And that bigger picture isn’t necessarily getting our own way in a conflict, or even completely coming to an agreement. It is God’s love permeating whatever is happening whether it be conflict or celebration, pain or happiness.
If we don’t quickly move to God and the joy we have in just knowing Him and what His Son did for us, we could mire ourselves down in a muck of sin.
You have boxing gloves on, and are ready to duke it out with your adversary who, mysteriously, comes running into the boxing ring smiling, dancing, almost giggly. Even when she is not smiling like a goofy person, her face – there is something that is beaming off of it, radiating from somewhere inside her.
At first you think she is crazy-cuckoo, but her face is just beaming. She talks of the conflict, of how to work it out, of her role in it, of your role in it. Her words are all true, and if she wasn’t dancing around in glee you might even bop her one for saying them.
Yet, how can you possibly hit, or even be angry with, this joyful person?
Ahhhh….don’t we wish every conflict would unfold in such a weird, wonderful way? I am not naive. Human nature doesn’t seem to allow for such happy conflict resolution. But yet it seems like it could, if we each choose joy.
Your statutes are my heritage forever; they are the joy of my heart. ~Psalm 119.111
In The Message, that last phrase is worded like this: ‘How happy it makes me.’ The Word of God can make us happy. Happy. It is pouring His word into us that gives us that fruit of joy without us having to force it, pretending that we have it.
In all our affliction, I am overflowing with joy. ~2 Corinthians 7.4
Don’t miss this. Paul used the word ‘overflowing.’ Paul is overflowing – dripping over the edges, leaking out the top, oozing all over – with JOY. And remember, this statement follows a chapter that highlighted the hardships he endured – so far – for the sake of the Gospel message. Yet, even then, he overflowed with joy in ALL his affliction…
And Joy is possible whenever we are afflicted, sad, in pain, hurt, bothered, perplexed, aggravated, frustrated, mad as a hornet. It’s what we have in Christ: overflowing joy in all.
If we choose it.
And I, for one, want some – no, all – of that!
Download our free devotional, Choose Joy, here.
Here’s additional joy-related verses that you can add to your Scriptural arsenal:
The hope of the righteous brings joy… ~Proverbs 10.28
You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. ~Psalm 16.11
But let all who take refuge in you rejoice; let them ever sing for joy, and spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may exult in you. ~Psalm 5.11