Joy

Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor the fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. God, the Lord, is my strength; He makes my feet like the deer’s; He makes me tread on my high places.” Habakkuk 3:17-19

How do we respond when our fertility is out of our control? How do we respond when our birth process is out of our control? How do we respond when sleep training is out of our control? How do we respond when the terrible twos, threenager throes, and ferocious fours attack? How do we respond when our children make wrong choices? How do we respond when our children turn away from the Lord? How do we respond when we do not see the fruit of our labor?

One of the first things motherhood taught me was my desperate need for my Savior. I quickly discovered that I was not in control. I was not in control of my fertility, I was not in control of my birth process, and I certainly was not in control of sleep training. We had a long year of trying to conceive our oldest child and experienced a miscarriage in our second pregnancy. I had opposite birth plans with my first two births and neither experience followed my detailed and specific guidelines. Sleep training was a terrible horrible no good very bad joke in my house. I still don’t know how in the world some people have babies who sleep in their own cribs all through the night! My babies hate sleep. I was not in control. I was certainly not always happy. And during these moments, I was not always joyful. But through the years of motherhood, the Lord has so graciously taught me about His joy and developed this Fruit of the Spirit within me.

Often, I have an attitude similar to Habakkuk in the beginning of his book. When my children are not behaving in ways I would like or when the trials of motherhood seem too compounded, I ask God, “Why me? When will you act? What am I doing wrong? Where do I go from here?” I cross my arms tightly across my chest, pout my lip, stamp my foot, and count it all a loss rather than counting it all joy (James 1:2). Do you notice the common theme in the above description? Me. Me. Me.

What is the real heart issue when things don’t go my way? I get so wrapped up in “my way” that I lose focus of God’s way. I allow my pride to creep in and trick myself into thinking that I know best and that my plans are faultless. God addresses this to Habakkuk. Of the proud, the Lord says, “Behold, his soul is puffed up; it is not upright within him, but the righteous shall live by his faith.” (Habakkuk 2:4) When we walk in faith, we stand aside to the will and ways of God. When we properly bow down to our Savior, He raises us to join Him in His work. When we correctly view motherhood as God’s work, we can live joyfully even when our season seems blossom-less, fruitless, failing, and barren.

The joy of the Lord is [my] strength (Nehemiah 8:10).” That is the theme verse for this space because truly in my own strength I cannot mom. But I know that “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me (Philippians 4:13).” Because the joy of the Lord is my strength, I can rejoice in the midst of fertility struggles. Because the joy of the Lord is my strength, I can rejoice when the birthing process doesn’t go according to my own plan. Because the joy of the Lord is my strength, I can rejoice in the middle of the night when a child wakes up again. Because the joy of the Lord is my strength, I can rejoice in every misbehavior, misadventure, and mismatched worldview of my children.

My joy does not come from the process of motherhood. My joy does not come from my children. My joy does not come from the seemingly perfect day where everything goes exactly according to plan. My joy comes from the Lord of my salvation. My joy comes from my Creator and Sustainer. My joy comes from my Sovereign God who holds every moment, every situation, every misstep in His capable hands. Like Habakkuk, I have learned that my God is worthy to be trusted and with trust comes true joy. I may not have seemingly joyful circumstances, but my joy is found in my infinite God who is before, during, and after any and all circumstances I face.

Another theme verse of this space is Lamentations 3:21-24, and today I am going to include verses 25 and 26. When difficult days come, when struggles seem never ending, when trials threaten to crush you, remember to take joy in the Lord of your salvation. In our salvation, we have eternal hope and that changes our perspective on everything.

But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. The Lord is my portion, says my soul, therefore I will hope in Him. The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks Him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.”

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