I just got done reading this great book called Fight Back With Joy written by Margaret Feinberg. Margarets story is like so many other women fighting breast cancer; but in the midst of the journey she and her husband decide to explore what it means to have true God given joy. Joy that passes all understanding and maybe even seems phony to someone on the outside of your trial because by all accounts if someone were to look in, you would have every right to have a self proclaimed pity party.
Don't get me wrong, she does have many bad days where she has to dig deep and she shares those in the book as well, but what stood out to me is the journey she went on to discover what it meant to have joy despite her circumstances. God given joy. Joy in the Lord. Thankful, unabashedly, relentless joy that says,"No matter what this life brings my way I AM CHOOSING to be joyful and love on others!"
In the middle of her cancer story and feeling pretty low Margaret meets a man who has the words "but if not" tattooed on his arm. The man points her to Daniel chapter 3 of the bible. The short version is that king Nebuchadnezzar is demanding that everyone bow down and worship statues. Enter Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego who refuse to bow down and are brought before the king who kindly informs them that if they do not bow down they will be thrown into the burning fiery furnace. We pick it up in verse 16 for their answer to king Nebuchadnezzar. "O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image you have set up."
Did you see that? They were so confident in Gods ability to change their circumstances that they stood strong and bold in the face of trial. And they were confident that the Lord had them there for a reason and if their circumstances did not change they were going to praise Him anyway. I want that! I want to look around and be able to say,"God I trust you. I'm feeling this trial Lord and I will not let it be in a vane. I will pray that this or that takes place and pray for relief BUT IF NOT, I am going to have joy and KNOW you have me here for a reason."
In the end king Nebuchadnezzar sees that after being thrown in the fire that the three men are not burned and in fact there are four people in the fire. The Lord was with them. The king fell down and worshiped God, giving up his idols. What would happen if we prayed like that? If we loved and lived like that? What would that look like to you? Who might see our joy and get saved?
I have been struggling with losing the use of my right hand as my rheumatoid arthritis progresses on that side of my body. Some days it's terribly painful and typing and writing are becoming something I can only do in short spurts. There are days when I feel scared, depressed and just angry that this is taking place. After being reminded of this story I am changing how I pray. "God heal me, straighten out my hand. Give me many more years of mobility, I'm to young to be losing use of my right hand/arm...I write with this side God! But if not, I am joyful because this is temporary. I will fight back with joy and loving on others in the midst of my discomfort because I CAN!! I am made in your image and WILL be joyful despite my circumstances."
What if we loved God and others with an abandon the world can not deny even if the Lord chooses not heal us? If He chooses not to bring that wayward child or spouse back? Our loved one dies anyway even though we prayed? God this is my hearts desire but if it's not to be I will serve you.