Saturday, September 12, 2009

Grieving and Rejoicing

Habakkuk 3:16
I heard and my heart pounded,
my lips quivered at the sound;
decay crept into my bones,
and my legs trembled.
Yet I will wait patiently for the day of calamity
to come on the nation invading us.........

And do not be grieved, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.
Nehemiah 8:10

As I wrote my previous post, one single thought continued through my mind. The joy of the Lord is your strength. It didn't make sense. Here I was, processing through my host of bad decisions, regretting how I had not heeded God's counsel to be okay with a fruitless season, and all I hear in my head, repeating over and over again is a single phrase, the joy of the Lord is your strength.

I knew it was in the bible somewhere, Psalms I figured. It sounded like a Psalm kind of thing to say. So I googled it, and lead me to Nehemiah 8.

I froze. Now, I may not know where to find the quote, the joy of the Lord is your strength, but I do know a little bit about Nehemiah.

The passage from June, the one in Habakkuk about a barren season and a promise of finding joy in the Lord, was a prophecy for the Jews who were about to be taken in exile. Nehemiah is the story of their return. Specifically, Nehemiah 8 is about the people realizing their sin that sent them into exile and grieving over it.

Through a simple phrase on my heart, God had led me to the rest of the story.

The people, upon completing the reconstruction of the wall of Jerusalem all gathered together and Ezra the priest read them the law (the bible). The people, realizing their failure wept bitterly. This is how church has felt for me these past months. I come and all I feel is the crushing sting of knowing I have not been doing as the Lord asked me to do. Of course, being way too westernized and concerned about my appearance, I've saved my bitter weeping for the privacy of my home. But like the people of Judah I stand convicted and ashamed.

I would except a big "I told you so" from Heaven at this point. Or a big "I don't think you've cried enough yet, don't you realize just how dumb you were?" But instead, God speaks through Ezra, instructing the people not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.

Is he saying, "suck it up, stop crying, enough already"? No. He says to rejoice. They are not rejoicing for anything they have done, they are rejoicing for the Lord is their strength.

Too often in my walk with God when I am confronted with sin I dwell in my grief. Stewing in regret, I search for any way to make things right again that will relieve my aching soul. But this week, as I was spending time mourning my sin, God was pointing me to the next step. It is time to grieve no more but rejoice in my redemption. God knows my sin, he knows my heart. Not everything has been fixed or made right and there continues to be consequences from my choices. But God has forgiven.

Now I have a new choice. Will I stay in my grief, trying to fix in my own strength problems created from my own stubbornness? Or, will I choose to grieve no more and completely surrender the situation to God? Will I choose to rejoice in His forgiveness or will I continue to sorrow in my shame? Prior to yesterday, I never really understood that such a choice existed.

I have always dwelt in my shame attempting to make things right. Perhaps this is an effort to somehow earn my forgiveness. But that is not where true forgiveness is found. Forgiveness is not granted because I made everything right again. Forgiveness is granted when I surrender. Yes, God make ask me to make things right. But just like a child who needs to let go of the spoon before they make an even bigger mess, I need to let go.

Letting go is hard when I am surrounded by the consequences of my choices. But Lord, you were gracious to show me which path to take. Will you be gracious enough to carry me down it? I am little more than a 2 year old, covered in spilled milk and cheerios, clinging desperately to the spoon. Gently take my hand and help me surrender. Help to hear your voice once again and walk in your ways. Give me opportunities to rejoice as I share with others how you are leading me. Thank you for showing me the light and joy of forgiveness. It feels nice here. Like the afternoon sun falling on my bed during a Sunday nap. Let me rejoice in you.

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