Scrolling through the docs on my laptop, I stumbled across some pieces I had written over the years for various reasons. Some were for church, some were because I was trying to start something and some were because if I didn’t get it out on paper I felt as though I would explode. It’s a real mixed bag. But if anything it shows growth. And for that reason I want to share them. Welcome to The Archives.
May they encourage you.
This piece was written as a blog for our women’s ministry at church early 2017.
"It's like the sun is shining when the rain is pouring down...."
“Better Hands” by Natalie Grant
I woke up that morning craving something good to focus on, something to take my mind off all the hurt, heartbreak, frustration and anger I felt at the season I was in. Feeling deeply forgotten by God and very much alone, my heavy, broken heart was overwhelming me. It seemed as though one thing after another kept falling apart, and there were days where I would find myself thinking "Is this ever going to end?"
As I laid in my bed that morning, my mind began flipping through various ideas on how to get myself out of the funk I was in. Thought after thought popped into my head, but I just as quickly dismissed them, so low was my hope that things were going to change in my life. Then the Holy Spirit gently nudged me with a reminder that in exactly 30 it was going to be my 30th birthday. As I sat in this thought for a moment, images of my family and friends, the things I had achieved, the dreams I still had, the goals I had set, etc. entered my mind and the most interesting thing all of sudden happened.
For a split second, I felt the smallest amount of joy.
And it felt so refreshing and freeing.
Nothing in my circumstances had changed- I was still sitting in the dirt and dust of deep heartache and pain with seemingly no end in sight, but I had changed. My mind had shifted enough for me to see that despite my circumstances, there was joy to be found in them. This made me hungry for more of it, so I made a decision that in the 30 days leading up to my 30th birthday I was going to post every day at least one thing I was grateful for.
That moment of gratitude had taught me a very valuable lesson - joy was possible amidst the pain if I could shift my mind to be grateful for what I did have in my life.
And so began my thirty days of grateful, an attempt at lifting my eyes from my brokenness and realigning them. As I sought out gratitude, I was sowing seeds of joy and the more I sought gratitude, the more joy I harvested.
“Those who sow with tears
will reap with songs of joy.
Those who go out weeping,
carrying seed to sow,
will return with songs of joy,
carrying sheaves with them.
When we think of a harvest of joy we automatically associate joy with the end result, it's the prize at the end of the race- which is true, but joy is not limited to something we receive at the end of the harvest, rather joy can be found, and is, in the journey it takes to get there. It is one of the hardest things to do, but joy is there to be found if you dare to look for it.
So, what is joy? Is it simply light fluffy warm feelings we get when something good happens? Is it throwing our arms in the air and yelling "woo hoo!"? Is it something that comes and goes?
In the NIV translation, the word Joy appears over 210 times. We see it in passages such as:
"But your dead will live, Lord; their bodies will rise- let those who dwell in the dust wake up and shout for joy." Isaiah 26:19
"Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer" Romans 12:12
Even in Galatians 4:27 which commands a barren woman to shout for joy- this seems such an outrageous statement! Is it even possible to feel joy when everything seems so lost? If so, how?
Joy is a sturdier substance then we might think and much more than light fluffy feelings. In those moments where life seems hopeless and God seems far away (such as the barren woman) it is possible to feel joy and peace. Because joy is a choice.
And the choice is not "ok, despite how much this is hurting, today I choose to feel good feelings". Oh if only it was that easy! Unfortunately, you can't force yourself to feel something, and nor should you hide or ignore the very real pain you are experiencing. To hide your pain or ignore it only causes it to grow. Pain needs to be brought into the light, in fact pain demands to be felt, whether you want to feel it or not. Allowing yourself to feel it means you will be able to move through it and ultimately come out the other end.
The choice I’m referring to is an important part of moving through the pain. It is "Today, I will trust in The Lord" That’s it. No more, no less. This simple statement produces two things:
first of all it allows you to look at that barren, dry field and say "Today, I believe that though I can not see it, God is doing something beneath that surface.” This is what real faith is (Hebrews 11:1) calling out in faith what we hope for, even though the evidence we see does not align with the faith and hope we hold. Hope makes everything a little lighter.
The second thing this choice to trust God produces is joy, because God is joy. If we look at the Fruits of the Spirit we see that the Holy Spirit produces in us “love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” The Holy Spirit, alive and present within us, will give us the ability to feel joy amidst the pain because His very nature is joy. When we choose to trust God in our barren, winter seasons, He is able to draw out of us joy.
It’s a daily choice and some days you’re going to get it right and others are just going to be too much. The point is, if you don’t seek it out then you won’t receive it. When we shift our focus from the painful task of sowing good seed or waiting for the harvest to grow, or standing in the dirt, not sure what to do with it, and refocus our eyes on God, then we begin to see God in the moments of our deepest lack.
And our God is no ordinary God- have you ever read Job 38-41? If ever you doubt the power of God- pick up your bible and read this passage. Here's a taste:
34 “Can you raise your voice to the clouds
and cover yourself with a flood of water?
35 Do you send the lightning bolts on their way?
Do they report to you, ‘Here we are’?
36 Who gives the ibis wisdom
or gives the rooster understanding?
37 Who has the wisdom to count the clouds?
Who can tip over the water jars of the heavens
38 when the dust becomes hard
and the clods of earth stick together?
"Who can tip over the water jars of heaven when the dust becomes too hard?" I can't, but I'm sure glad God can. It is in recognising my insignificance in light of His great significance that I find the joy to look at that dry, hard dust and believe He is working beneath the surface.
John Piper puts it this way "what gives joy it's quality?...Christian joy is the joy of craving the preciousness of Jesus. You become like what you crave." When we crave Christ, His love, His peace, for His purpose to be played out, we are filled with joy because we are acknowledging Gods ability to do something in a situation that we have no control over.
In those moments of great desolation, your joy comes from knowing your Saviour is not finished with you yet. That He is sitting in the dust and dirt beside you. And whilst you can't see what is happening beneath the soil you can find joy in the knowledge that He does. All it takes is a single nudge from His hand to tip those store jars of water over and pour it out on the dry dirt. That alone should cause you to turn your eyes to heaven and smile because it is in those moments that the sun is shining even when the rain is pouring down.