I took my son, Thomas, to the park for a MOPS play date about a year ago. He had a good time riding the merry-go-round all morning and I had a good time having an uninterrupted conversation with other adults. When we finally arrived back home, it was time to unload the car.
As I gathered leftover chicken nuggets, jackets, and cups to take inside, wondering how our stuff multiplies while we’re out, Thomas was wandering around the yard. I warned him to stay nearby. I kept an “eye” on him, listening to his happy chatter and the tinkling of the keys he was holding. Suddenly, I realized I couldn’t hear him anymore. Of course, I went into full-on panic mode, wondering where he could possibly be. I called his name-frantic-but heard nothing. I called “Thomas!” a second time. He walked around from the far side of the house and gave me a sheepish grin.
Without missing a beat, he stepped up on the porch to try and unlock the door with the keys in his hand. I turned back to my task. Adrenaline still pumping, I thought to myself, “So it’s going to be one of those days.” Suddenly, this still-small voice inside me says, “An awesome one?”
A couple weeks before this incident, I went to a reflective retreat. The speaker at the retreat said that as we’re listening for God’s voice, we should be listening for things that aren’t our thoughts. This was definitely not my thought because to me, this moment was not awesome. Thomas was not doing what I asked him to do and I was not looking forward to a day of butting heads with my son. I was thrown off-kilter and nobody likes those moments that throw us off-kilter.
Message received. The Holy Spirit was gently reminding me that in such moments I have a choice of whether I will let an off moment define my day or move on from it. I can choose joy.
Habakkuk, the prophet, complained to God because it didn’t seem like the Lord was at work, setting the wrong things right in Judah. God answered him, “Hey, you know your sworn enemies, who are even more evil than Judah? They’re going to come and judge for me.” Habakkuk replied, “LOL. Wut. You’re serious?! That’s even worse.” [Probably not an exact quote]. God responded that all who are refuse to follow him will be judged and punished.
Habakkuk’s focus shifts in the last chapter: “I have heard all about you, Lord. I am filled with awe by your amazing works. In this time of our deep need, help us again as you did in years gone by. And in your anger, remember your mercy” (Habakkuk 3:2).
He remembered God’s work on behalf of his people in their Exodus experience. He saw how God worked in amazing, miraculous ways. He remembered that God is for his people. This left Habakkuk hopeful, in spite of everything that is wrong and painful on the horizon.
Even though the fig trees have no blossoms,
and there are no grapes on the vines;
even though the olive crop fails,
and the fields lie empty and barren;
even though the flocks die in the fields,
and the cattle barns are empty,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord!
I will be joyful in the God of my salvation!
The Sovereign Lord is my strength!
He makes me as surefooted as a deer,
able to tread upon the heights. (Habakkuk 3:17-19, emphasis mine)
“Even though…yet I will rejoice in the Lord.”
Does choosing joy mean everything makes us happy? No! It means that we shift our focus from everything that’s wrong to see where God is at work in (spite of) it. Habakkuk could praise the God of his salvation because he remembered who God has always been–a savior to his people. Even if it wasn’t clear right then, it would be clear again in time. It was an awesome moment in the truest sense of the word: full of awe for who the Lord is.
So many moments in our lives are trying, painful, exhausting, and scary. When we’re honest with ourselves, there are several times when we look around at all that is going wrong and think, “So it’s one of those days [or weeks/seasons/years/lifetimes].” What if instead we decided to shift our focus and remember who the Lord is, even when it seems like he isn’t present? What if we said, “Even though things aren’t as I hoped and expected, yet I will rejoice in the Lord who _____.” Fill in the blank with something of his character that you know to be true, even if you can’t see it right then. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not some magic formula that takes our problems away. It’s simply a way to recognize that the Lord is yet at work. We choose joy by choosing to rejoice in the Lord.
May you have an awesome day.