A couple weeks ago I was listening to music while journaling & reflecting on what the Lord has been teaching me & walking me through.
The song I was listening to just kept repeating that line: we cannot contain our joy from You.
I stopped everything I was doing & started thinking about that.
“Does the joy of Jesus Christ overflow out of me? Is His joy so evident in my life that it cannot be contained?”
Because it should.
My life should be consumed with Christ & the joy that comes from knowing Him, & FROM HIM KNOWING ME.
The hope, grace, love, & sanctification I find in Christ should translate to an overwhelming joy that literally EXPLODES out of me.
As I look at my own life, I don’t often see that. As I was reflecting on this a dear friend sent me the daily devotion from “My Utmost For His Highest”
I opened it to see the title “My Joy…Your Joy”
Okay Jesus, let’s talk about joy.
It began with John 15:11--
“These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may remain in you, & that your joy may be full.”
The joy of Jesus was His absolute self-surrender & self-sacrifice to His Father, THE JOY OF DOING WHAT THE FATHER SENT HIM TO DO. We should delight in doing the will of God. Jesus found joy in serving the Father, in following in what His Father had planned for Him to do.
Jesus wants our joy to be LIKE HIS. Jesus PRAYED that my joy would mirror His own.
Have I allowed Jesus to introduce that joy to me? Have I allowed Him to work in me & USE ME in way that I have experienced this joy?
This world tries to tell me that my joy comes from health, circumstances, location, or seeing God’s work succeed.
But joy, true joy, is found in living out a relationship + ONENESS with God like Jesus had; in understanding God perfecting, in seeking Him.
Jesus was CLOSE to the Father, He knew His Father’s heart. He took time, even in the busiest seasons, even in the hard seasons, to meet with God. TO POUR OUT HIS HEART, to ask for what he needed, to pray. (And even pray OVER US, this literally blows my mind.)
The first thing that takes me away from the joy of Jesus is overthinking my current circumstances. By dwelling on where I am & what I am doing instead of taking the time I know I need with the Father. By overanalyzing & taking things into my own hands.
I get so caught up in my own cares & I forget WHO I AM in Christ & WHAT I AM CALLED TO.
I stop living with the mindset “Your will be done, Oh God.” And instead focus on my own motives.
Instead of living my purpose on this earth- TO PROCLAIM THE GOSPEL OF JESUS CHRIST & BE THE HANDS & FEET OF JESUS- I live for my purposes, for my worries, for this world.
When we have a RIGHT relationship with God. Living in ONENESS, COMING BEFORE HIM for more knowledge, more of HIM-- That’s where we find joy.
In pouring out our hearts to Him, in asking for more of Him.
When we do this the Word says, “Out of you will flow rivers of living waters.”
When we live in ONENESS with God. His joy will pour out of us. Explode out of us.
I need to stop living for myself, stop thinking I can do it alone, thinking I am enough & instead live my life hidden in the Father’s heart, living as a fountain in which He can pour His living waters & watching as His joy EXPLODES out of me & blesses others without me even knowing it.
I've spent about four Sundays here in Uganda, and every Sunday is filled with joyous dancing. Jumping, swaying, stomping, clapping, you name it, I've danced it in Mukono, Uganda, in joyous praise to our God. One time we even ran laps around the chairs in the sanctuary shouting "Hallelujah", because Jesus is just that good. It's the most joyful and beautiful worship I have ever experienced because it's free, and raw, and real. But my Sunday mornings aren't the only time I have danced these past four weeks .I spend my days here at the school with the kids; singing in English and Lugandan and dancing in circles. We also live with two teenage girls who are determined to teach me to dance. I've spent many hot, Saturday afternoons in the living room dancing to African music videos as Peace and Aggie teach me traditional Ugandan dances. (Let's be honest, we are mostly just laughing at my lack of dancing skills) Oftentimes, after dinner, you can find the three of us dancing, clapping, and laughing hysterically on the back porch as we teach each other how to dance. It was after one of these beautiful nights of dancing and laughing that I said, "When did my life become musical?" It seems like these past four months I have danced and sang more that I ever have before. Man, Africa loves to dance and sing. Not only does Africa love it, but I've spent the past four months with nine other women who absolutely adore worshiping their Creator in song. I don't think a moment goes by that we are not beautifully singing and shouting in worship; making up songs about whatever we are doing that very moment; pounding out a beat on the tambourine; or freestyle rapping. (Truly not a moment without one of these things, we call ourselves "The Chicken Thuggets, look for us on iTunes someday...) This trip has taught me a lot about worship, in all it's forms. Before I even left on this trip, the Lord told me that I was on a team of worshipers And it's evident in all we do. Constant singing and worship. Singing on the streets, on hospital grounds, at schools, in churches, and all the time at home. Over the sick,the oppressed, and those who are captive to darkness. Constant song and dance. My life really is a musical. And really, why should it not be? I sing and I dance because my God is mighty and worthy to be praised. I sing and I dance because my God is a God of pure, unfailing love. A love that casts out fear; is stronger than death; that lifts my burdens; and a love that's sweeter than any I've ever known. I sing and dance because my God is pouring this love into my life and singing it over me. I sing and dance because I am finally LETTING God love me, and as I do my heart is singing and feet are dancing like they never have before. I sing and I dance because I have been REDEEMED. I am saved. I am a new creation. And I am FREE. Free to sing, and dance, and live for Him. One of my girls passed me a note last night that read, "Freedom is so much more than being saved; it's about being alive. As you are right now, you are alive, you are free. Hold onto this feeling; remember this when you feel burdened, you are free! Nothing can keep you from freedom except yourself!" And let me tell you I'm more alive and free than I've ever been. So, I hold fast to this feeling of freedom, life, and joy. And I'll choose to dance and sing and live this crazy life of mine as a musical to my King.
I have a problem.
A problem with comparison Living in community I am surrounded by beautiful women of God. Women filled with the Spirit who pour out love on everyone around me deeply and truly. It's so easy to strive to be like them. They radiate and reflect Christ, so why wouldn't I want to be just like them?
Before I left on this journey, a couple dear friends reminded me of two things:
#1 That our God is so vast that He created us all uniquely because He needs all to worship Him in different ways
#2 That I cannot try to be or become another mortal being, no matter how spiritual or Christ-like they are.
I will always fall short. I will fall short because I am not that person. I cannot be them no matter how hard I try because that person is uniquely made by their Creator. If I try to conform to who that person is, I will be throwing away pieces of who I was created to be. I'll be ignoring the way the Lord created me to uniquely worship Him.
Instead, I should strive to be more like Christ. To seek after Him and long to be just like Him.
I'm still going to fall short, but I'll be walking in the fullness of who the Lord created me to be.
I'll still fall short but I am worshiping God in the way He needs me to.
I'll still fall short but I am going to reflect Christ brighter than I ever could through another human.
I'll still fall short but His grace is enough for me today, tomorrow, and the next day.
The Lord has been teaching me a lot lately about "singing my song"
Psalms 40 begins:
"I waited patiently for the Lord;
He turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock
and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God."
God has rescued me from the pit. He has washed me clean of my dirt and shame. He's set my feet on solid ground so I cannot fall. And He's put a new song of praise in my mouth!
A new song.
A song that is mine to sing to my creator.
A song that is mine to sing to my Savior, Healer, and Sanctifies
He put a song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to Himself. So why, do I try and sing someone else's song? Why do I throw away pieces of my new life and new song to sing tiny pieces of someone else's?
Throw off the chains of comparison and RUN to your Father singing your song of praise! That's what He wants, that's why He created you. Sing your Heaven song, don't seal your lips.
When you do you're going to find that you no longer even desire to sing someone else's song, you no longer even have to compare yourself to other people. Because you'll be chasing after Christ and being Christ-like, you'll be focused on belting your song out to the King.
If you're like me, you've tried to string together measly bits of other people's songs to sing for yourself for so long that when you sing you own song, it's going to sound broken and wrong and you're going to whisper it.
But that's still not what the Lord has called me to. He's called me to proclaim.
So SING. Sing your Heaven song! Belt it out and hit a few wrong notes!
But don't stop singing, don't stop praising. The Creator of the universe loves you and deeply desires YOU. You and your song.
Let God have you. You the one He uniquely created; you the only one He desires; you the only thing you have to give him.
And let God LOVE you, save you, and heal you and then don't be surprised if your heart starts singing songs you've never heard before and your feet start dancing like never before.
It's what He intended from the start.
On Friday, we spent the morning dancing and worshipping with widows. It was beautiful. Tears filled my eyes. In that small, concrete building with no lights and muddy floors; I saw a glimpse of Heaven. Heaven on earth as believers from all walks of life, with unique stories and testimonies, danced together. Women who had lost husbands, who were once filled with sorrow, danced with joy. For the Lord’s goodness, for His grace, for His love, for His everlasting promises.
On the way home, we stopped at the hospital to pray for the sick. On Sunday, we danced with a man we had prayed over. A man who two days ago was lying lifeless on the ground of a crowded hospital, now stood in front of the church healed by the Lord. A man who now joined us in dancing to worship a God who heals, protects, and provides.
Last night, we danced and stomped and sang at the top of our lungs as the sunset and the rain fell. Praising God for what He is doing here in Malawi, for what He’s already done, for what’s to come. To dance and praise a God who is covering us in unbelievable blessings.
Our first two weeks in Malawi have been beautiful glimpses of Heaven. Where we will dance in front of our creator endlessly. There won’t be sickness or sorrow or grieving. There won’t be language barriers. We will not grow weary. We will just dance and sing praise unending. And let me tell you, It’s going to be absolutely beautiful.