Friday, November 20, 2009

The Idiot's Joy - A Reflection

As I was, yet again, wrestling with a certain anxiety in my life (a brand new one), I pondered the question: Why is it so easy for me to worry? I have now over 35 years of history with God, where I’ve gotten into one kind of trouble after another, only to find He has faithfully delivered me out of them all. This is what the Word says He will do, and it is what He has done so many times in my life. Yet a new uncertainty presents itself, a new dilemma with no quick solution, and I slip into the well-worn rut I’ve slipped into, lo these many years, and worry once more.

In this latest round, I found myself reading Psalm 40 in my quiet time and paused as I read verses 4-5:

“Blessed is the man who makes the LORD his trust, who does not turn to the proud, to those who go astray after a lie! You have multiplied, O LORD my God, your wondrous deeds and your thoughts toward us; none can compare with you! I will proclaim and tell of them, yet they are more than can be told.”

I realized my happiest times are not really when my circumstances are all to my liking, but when I am trusting in God, regardless of my circumstances. There is one level of joy when things are going my way (and I do enjoy these rare moments), but it’s an even greater level of joy to have joy when you have no idea what’s going on…and you don’t care in the least, because you know you are loved and cared for by God. To be free of worry and care in those moments―because you have made the Lord your trust and because you know He is worthy of that trust―this is a far greater joy.

Why? Because joy that comes from faith and that certain, quiet trust in the Lord cannot be moved. It flows from faith not from sight. It transcends circumstantial joy, flies far above it. And because it does, shifting circumstances have no power to bring it down. Now to the unbelieving eye, it appears to be the joy of an imbecile. Only an idiot laughs when his life is in shambles. But even if this were so, should we not envy the idiot who could know such joy? Would not such joy be preferable to the misery of dwelling on the harsh realities of life?

But as it turns out, this is not the idiot’s joy. There is a God in heaven. He beckons us to deliberately look away from our troubles and contemplate His perspective. David sees this and says what we need to consider. He says the God of Heaven has multiplied His thoughts toward us. He says, “I will proclaim and tell of them, yet they are more than can be told.”

Charles Spurgeon, my favorite theologian living or dead, said this about this text: “Could we see all the mercies of God to us and His wonderful work wrought for us individually, they would be countless as the sands, and all these countless mercies represent countless thoughts in the mind and heart of God to each one of his people.”

Is this not the rut for me? The reason I slip so easily into worry? I imagine in my mind that God has forgotten about me. That He is not thinking about me now. How could He be? If He were, this situation would never have happened. Once these thoughts settle in, it follows that I must fix the situation somehow; it’s all up to me. My mind, independent of faith and trust, kicks into gear. Worry flows from fear, the fear that I am alone. Since I am alone, I must fend for myself.

Then God’s Spirit gently interrupts my drift with the astounding truth of God’s Word. God has not stopped thinking about me for a moment. Not a single moment. Blessed is the man who makes the Lord his trust…who does not go astray after a lie! What lie? That I am alone, that God has forgotten about me. And what is the truth? His thoughts toward me (about me) are more numerous than can be counted. He has, perhaps, dozens of thoughts regarding the very situation that perplexes me now. A plan, God’s plan, is underway, even as we speak. And the end result of this plan, when fully unfolded, will be to the praise of His glory. And I will approve of it, every single part. The knowledge of these things gives me all the reason I need to let go of my worries now, and let the joy of the Lord renew my strength.

Is this the idiot’s joy? Then so be it. But I have 35 years of stories just like this. And they all tell me that God is behind it all.

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