It’s already been quite a winter. Joy and sorrow in equal measure at the Higgs house. (Maybe at your house too?)
Finally, I’m ready to leap into the snowy fray and explore a dozen heartwarming verses with you this year.
I spent New Year’s Eve alone in a hospital bed (cue the violins), feeling very sorry for myself. It was the last straw in a whole haystack of heartaches and health issues that began in early November. Asthmatic bronchitis, then a foot injury requiring many stitches, plus a scary kidney procedure—challenges that made giving thanks on Thanksgiving an effort.
Then in December I lost my older brother, John. So hard. My second kidney operation followed, more intense than the first. On Christmas Eve Eve (that’s a thing, right?), I had total knee replacement surgery, then developed a dangerous skin infection that landed me in the hospital just before the world sang “Auld Lang Syne.”
Enough with the long list of woes. Here’s the point. Months earlier I’d chosen a verse to end our Season of Joy study. Here was the sentence blinking at me from my laptop screen on the last day of December:
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. James 1:2-3
Isn’t that just like the Lord? He brings us the right Word when we need it most, sometimes with “joy” and “trials” in the same breath.
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds,… James 1:2
“Pure joy” means just that. 100%. “Nothing but joy” (AMP). In Greek, pas chara, or “every delight.”
Did I “count it all joy” (ASV) in that hospital room? Oh no. I was adding up all the bad stuff. The physical pain. The emotional trauma. The trials.
In doing so, I was missing the Big Picture.
Believers aren’t exempt from life’s “various tests” (CEB) and “troubles” (NCV) and “manifold temptations” (AMP). In fact, God says they’re good for us. They make us who we are: men and women of God, unwavering in our faith, a worthy witness to His power.
Clearly, I needed to ask God to guide my thoughts and actions in a more positive direction. To move from grumbling to rejoicing, from miserable to “very happy” (GW). To see myself as “fortunate” (GNT). To face my troubles and “welcome them as friends!” (PHILLIPS).
Our faithful God always shows us how. He also shows us why.
…because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. James 1:3
It’s our faith being put to the test, with “spiritual maturity” (AMP) as the goal. We’re “proving” (ASV) we believe in God and His Word by showing the world our joy instead of our frustration, anger, disappointment, and the rest.
When our lives are going well, others may credit our happy state to good luck or to being in the right place at the right time. But when all is not well and we’re still joyful, praising God for His faithfulness? Friend, that gets people’s attention.
They may see our “patience” (DRA), our “endurance” (CEB), and the “steadfastness” (ESV) of our faith, and decide a relationship with God could be the real deal. Worth considering. Worth pursuing. Especially if we make it clear He is the One who gives us “inner peace” (AMP) and “the strength to continue” (NIrV).
Back in my hospital room, watching the ball drop in Times Square, I begged the Lord to forgive my weeks of self-pity and fully renew my spirit. To help me not only sense His joy, but also show His joy.
Suddenly, I began seeing the humorous side of my situation. When a noisy cart wheeled down the hall sounding like a duck, I quacked up. When the PT guy came by to work on my new knee, I used my temporary walker with enthusiasm, instead of hiding it in the corner. When I had to wash my hair in the sink because I couldn’t navigate a tub, I drew silly faces on the mirror with shampoo and LOLs.
I realize this is small stuff. Very small. But if God can make a world of difference in one woman’s life in a matter of seconds, think of what He can do in all our lives and in far bigger ways.
It isn’t the size of our situation that matters. It’s the size of our God, and HE IS HUGE.
Heavenly Father, this year and every year, help us count our blessings, not our burdens. Help us pass every test with flying colors because of Your strength, Your power, Your joy. Make perseverance our method, Lord, and maturity our goal. When we’re able to be joyful in difficult circumstances, may we give every ounce of glory to You. Amen.
Now, this month’s lovely giveaway. If you’ve been keen to try an adult coloring book, this one from WaterBrook Multnomah is especially fine: Whatever Is Lovely: A Coloring Book for Reflection and Worship. Kindly post a comment below, sharing something God has revealed to you in today’s short study. On Monday, February 1 at 10pm ET, I chose five names at random to win a copy of Whatever Is Lovely. Congrats to Cindy, Shirley, Misty, Crystal, and Mary Ann!
As to what I’m working on now? Lots of speaking in the months ahead, a revised edition of Really Bad Girls of the Bible with the Study Guide included (July), a new devotional I’m super excited about, 31 Verses to Write on Your Heart (October), and this time next year, The Women of Easter. Yay! Until next month, bless you for giving me the joy of encouraging you.