My Bible study group just began a new study entitled, Fighting Back with Joy, by Margaret Feinberg. The title instantly intrigued me because it didn’t encourage us to find or discover joy, but rather to fight for it. While joy is something only God can give us, it does require an action on our part.
But how do we fight for joy? How can we somehow possess joy while living in a broken world where bad things happen?
I was scrolling through my Facebook feed about a week ago and came across a YouTube video (Click here to watch it) that someone had posted about a woman named Kara Tippetts. I watched spellbound as tears streamed down my face. This woman was fighting back with joy even as her earthly body was dying before my eyes.
Kara didn’t try to make light of her situation or hide how she was feeling. In fact, she started off by sharing that she felt like a little girl at a party whose dad has told her it is time to go home and she is just throwing a fit. She said, “I’m not afraid of dying, I just don’t want to go.”
Kara (38) was a wife and mother to four beautiful children and had been battling an aggressive form of breast cancer for the past 2 ½ years. She and her husband had moved to Colorado Springs about that same time to start a new church plant. In the span of just a few months, she had broken her nose, had evacuated their home due to the Waldo Canyon Fire (their home was not destroyed), and then was diagnosed with cancer.
She explained that the world says she should be angry and shaking her fists at God, but, “suffering isn’t a mistake and isn’t the absence of God’s goodness because He’s present in pain.” That He was teaching her to serve Him out of her weakness and not out of her strength.
I saw a woman who knew her time on this earth was coming to an end and was wrestling with not wanting to leave her husband and children, but I also witnessed that same woman despite her ugly situation, radiating the beautiful and unmistakable essence of joy.
“I was just the one there experiencing walking towards my last breath and looking for God’s grace in the midst of it.” Kara Tippets
Kara passed away Sunday, March 22nd. While many, if faced with her set of circumstances, would have every reason to become bitter and angry, Kara chose to fight back with joy. As one woman beautifully said about Kara, “She doesn’t look for the absence of hard, but for the beauty of Jesus to shine in her suffering.” And shine He did.
To find joy we must be willing to fight for it. We must stop equating being happy with the absence of hard in our lives. If joy can only be claimed in the absence of brokenness, than few of us will ever get to experience it’s life changing power, but; if joy is something we can chose to fight for than no set of circumstances can ever wrench it away from us.
So how can we fight for joy in our lives?
1) Ask for it. In Fighting Back with Joy, Margaret asks the question, “When was the last time you prayed for God to give you more joy?” As I thought about that question, I realized I had never prayed for joy directly. My prayer for joy had always been something I hoped would happen when God answered my prayer request. That I would experience joy if God healed my friend, if my kids made good choices, if God would just open that one door. But joy was never meant to be tied to our circumstances, but rather anchored in the perfect love of our heavenly Father.
Until now you have asked nothing in My name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full. John 16:24
Every good and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning. James 1:17
2) Focus on God’s attributes. In the second video session of our study, Margaret tells us to, “Remain suspicious that God is up to something good.” As I thought about what it could possibly mean to be suspicious that God was up to something good, I tried to imagine myself as a detective. If I was trying to solve a crime and had a suspect, I would be looking for clues to prove they had done it.
If we remain suspicious that God is doing something good in our lives, we will be looking for clues in His Word that prove to us He is doing just that. It is really hard to be constantly focusing on the negative in our lives if we are actively looking for God’s goodness.
Though he slay me, still will I trust in Him. Job 13:15
I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth. Psalm 34:1
3) Live in His Presence. Joy is not found sitting in a pew. It cannot be bought. You cannot borrow it from someone else. Joy weaves its way into the fabric of our lives when we are living in His presence. When we willingly lay down our lives—our dreams—our own way, we gain that joy that never can be taken away from us. It’s why the Christians being burned alive in Nero’s gardens could sing praises. It’s why Kara Tippetts could say even while dying, “In this today, I get to live well.” It’s why we can find purpose no matter what we are facing. Joy! Joy! Joy!
For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. Luke 16:24
In your presence is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. Psalm 16:11
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