The Joy Replacement Process

As I drove to work this morning, marveling at the arrival of autumn colors, a crazy realization came to mind. I am much healthier than I’ve been in a long time, booming on betterment surges the past six weeks. But though my cylinders are functioning cleaner and crisper, I’m not nearly as joyous – several posts short of jubilant status. I could be off my rocker in the execution of such phraseology; nonetheless, ensuing bemusement has left quite the throbbing head.

Let me cut to the chase, instead of verbally dancing about the mulberry bush. I desire to be all that I can be for Jesus. Throughout my blog history, my passion about conforming and transforming for his glory has been a consistent theme, along with an increasing dissatisfaction with complacency and its pertinent counterparts. In essence, I have grown alongside my writings. Dig through five years’ worth and one will discover that in the pursuit of God, I have gained a solid understanding about the fool I used to be, what an identity in Christ looks like, and how God’s innate qualities have everything to do with our purpose and destiny.

I am convinced that becoming like Christ is the greatest journey we will ever embark on. However, Christ never guaranteed a smooth metamorphosis. Often times, the marking lessons and lasting impressions stick through heavyweight grapples that teach and enable us to live blamelessly. Even recently, I’ve smelled the coffee on certain dregs, not fully steeped in the cup of God’s best. Yet, the acumen wafting off the handle has been more refreshing than an entire autumn’s worth of pumpkin spice lattes. Post-equinox, life has been a celebration, rejoicing over the Lord’s faithfulness and the blessing of having a wholesome fear for him on a steeper upward trajectory.

Still, I feel as if, at times, I’m running on empty and the verdict is still out in the fog. Granted such merriment in celebration has been combated with challenges, particularly coping with dead ends. The quantity of these dead ends has especially pushed me; perhaps this wouldn’t be the case if all such crossroads were God-imparted, sans a mixture of the man-made. Regardless of the circumstance, the best first move is releasing the wheel and surrendering any maneuver that would induce self-autonomy into the equation. The second is giving God complete access to clear and gut both mind and heart, in turn, revealing each road for its true journey and destination. Crossroads, indeed, provide breakthrough opportunities; they should not be dreaded.

The light of Christ has been undoing me. When I focus on the cross and God’s love, I realize I’m not suffering from a lack of joy, but rather enduring a necessary but uncomfortable makeover. Thus, I’m not truly empty, but instead, numb from operation. What operation? Well, think of it this way: my joy is going through a replacement process. The process itself provides short-term and long-term aspirations. The obvious and immediate application, cliché as it may sound, is joy must be uniformly anchored in Christ. It cannot be mixed or split into stipends. I’m talking “all in” lock, stock and barrel style. The long-term remedy comes through prolonged diligence to maintain the short-term, ultimately enhancing spiritual maturity. What is one facet of spiritual maturity? Taking inventory of the heart consistently and making sure all joy is stocked in God’s warehouse (Note: you can substitute any fruit of the Spirit with joy here). Once a healthy rhythm is established, we will find that yesterday’s replacements become tomorrow’s refreshments.

Joy must be authentic as well, with each root connected to God’s heart. Any stray roots must be pursued. This is why I love the parable of the one lost sheep. The model of a loving Shepherd devotedly searching for the wandering lambs within us is captivating. He will never stop going after us. If we are apathetic in the caring of our root system, then we run the risk of allowing our emotions to dictate our joy. When this happens, we acknowledge God as king of our souls, but live a lifestyle that relegates him to prince. Such a destructive pattern must be put to death.

In closing, I’m thankful that God has been wooing me closer to his heart by restructuring and reconfiguring the outlets from which my joy flows. We are called to count it all joy, as Paul says, and rejoice always, especially in the glow of victory. Don’t mix and match as you please! Don’t absorb the relative perspectives contra to biblical principles. Doesn’t real joy manifest itself through greater trust in the Lord? And if our joy is even partly plastic, what does that say about our faith? What does that say about our desire to transform the broken, so they, too, may be strengthened by Christ’s love and transform others who are broken?

God has won, is winning and will continue to win no matter what intersections we come to, no matter what life throws at us and no matter how we feel about it. So live with the truth in mind.

To be continued…

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