Great Joy - I Surrender
By Mitzi Brown, The Well Therapy – September 2, 2019
While we wait.
Hurricane Dorian churns off the east coast of Florida, lashing the Bahamas with destructive, relentless forces of wind, torrents of rain, and inexplicable, unfathomable loss. Loss of property, life, loved ones, dreams, shelter, sustenance, power, clean water, dry or comfortable places to sleep, conditioned air, and maybe worst of all, hope. #hurricaneDorian #greatjoy #hope
As a Florida-dweller, I am familiar with the stress and anxiety of the days of waiting and wondering. Anxiety threatens to take over as we wait. Uncertainty creeps in and challenges our security – and for some, perhaps sanity. Tempers flare and patience grows short or nonexistent. #anxiety
This does not sound like the formula for great joy.
Yet without minimizing the reality of the threat, we dare not allow ourselves to go there. We dare not allow our anxious thoughts to take us to hopelessness.
We and those we love, or those we’ve never met can and do experience tragic losses – and may do so in the next few days, weeks, or months. But we, children of the Living God, dare not lose hope. Trouble has been promised for those of us still walking around on planet Earth – it’s not an “if”, but a “when”. It is not because we’ve been bad, or God is mean – it’s because we live in a fallen world that’s been ruined by sin and cursed with the promise of death because of sin. But thankfully not permanently for those who believe in and follow Jesus.
James 1:2-4 (NLT) 2 Dear brothers and sisters,[a] when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. 3 For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. 4 So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing. (emphasis mine)
Certainly, for anyone pondering evacuation plans or enduring the trauma of pounding winds and rising water, this can sound a bit trite. Great joy? Really?
God is not taken by surprise by our losses, pain and suffering. In John 16:33 (NLT), Jesus said, “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” (emphasis mine)
He knows troubles will come, and in those times of trouble, he wants our hearts, minds, and strength of soul to turn toward Him because He promises peace. He wants us to turn toward Him and “consider it an opportunity for great joy”. Does that mean we’re doing a happy dance that a hurricane is threatening? Of course not. It means we trust Him regardless the outcome – and we trust that He will use it as an opportunity to grow our faith.
Is that difficult? You bet!
I don’t know of anyone who goes through real trouble without experiencing a faltering peace. Well, at least I do. What James says in the above passage is this: those troubles are an opportunity for growth. An opportunity for us to choose faith over fear, and to grow in endurance, trusting God to work things out – even when our eyes cannot see any way for it to work out. Because, paradoxically, surrender is winning. #surrenderiswinning
Even if my home is lost. Even if I suffer. Even if my family suffers. Even if I lose a pet. Even if I don’t know where the storm is headed. Even if I suffer property damage. Even if people perish. Even if ….
Is it ok to grieve loss? YES! It is not only ok it is necessary. It is possible to both grieve and be fully trusting God. Emotions are God-given. Fully experience your grief, pain, and loss by talking it through. It is ok to as why – Jesus did, and so can you. It is ok to be angry. And at the end of the day, return to God with your broken heart to receive comfort and healing.
Consider those closest to Jesus in the days after his horrible suffering and death on a Roman cross. Not what they were expecting – totally what God had planned though. They were filled with fear and doubt about this man they had followed and believed in for three years. Had they been wrong? Had it all been a lie?
They went into hiding for fear of enduring the same torturous fate. Until one day, as recounted in Luke 24:36-42 (NLT), Jesus appeared among them. Not like you and I walk into a room, but like, He’s not there, and, BOOM, then HE IS. And the first thing he says to them is “Peace be to you” because they were startled and frightened by this sudden appearance (I mean really, imagine this happening to you). He offers evidence that it’s really Him and asks for something to eat just to prove to them that he is not as ghost as some of them fear.
His Spirit is alive and present for us too. Consider it great joy. Expect Him to come through in unexpected ways. Turn toward hope. Surrender is winning.