Bucket Full of Joy

What makes you happy? Many of us think if we just made more money or could win the lottery, we would be happy. For some, our happiness is based on relationships such as marriage or friendships. For others, happiness revolves around sports. And of course, if we can’t find happiness in other things, we tend to search for happiness in CHOCOLATE!

Unfortunately chocolate is not enough for the things that have been going on lately. Last week our country was rocked by an intentional bombing at the Boston Marathon injuring many innocent people on April 15. Just days later West, Texas was devastated by the explosion at a fertilizer plant on April 17. The same week marked the anniversaries of the Oklahoma City Bombing on April 19 and the Columbine High School Massacre on April 20. Many in our nation were affected personally on a scale that is unimaginable. Whether you were affected personally or not, however, you WERE affected. We often find ourselves glued to the television in shock wondering how such things could happen.

Aside from national tragedies, we all have personal issues that often rock our world. Deaths, strained relationships, illness, heartache, and so many other things affect the happiness of our daily lives. Psalms 30:5 says, “Weeping may endure for the night, but joy comes in the morning.” Unfortunately that does not literally mean we will weep through the night and tomorrow everything will be ok. But instead it assures us that there WILL be a time of joy even in the midst of our trials.

The happiness that things such as money, relationships, sports, and chocolate provide is NOT the same as joy. Happiness comes and goes, but joy is long lasting and brings true contentment. Happiness causes short term pleasure, but joy is long lasting. Happiness isn’t something that you can cling to during the trials of life, but real joy endures the trials. True joy is only found through a relationship with our Heavenly Father.

I’ve never had to retrieve water from a well. When I was young we had a well, but it had a pump. But like me, if you haven’t actually done it, you’ve probably observed it on Little House on the Prairie or some other show. Water didn’t just come out the sink by turning a knob as it does for us today. A bucket tied to a rope was lowered down into the well and then rolled back up and carried to the house for use.

For Christians, joy is like a bottomless well of water. The water is always there, but we have to lower the bucket to get it. It takes effort on our part. We can’t just turn the knob and expect joy to flow freely. We must make the choice each day to lower our bucket. So how exactly do we get the joy into our bucket?

  1. Pray – When things are out of your control, pray as if every aspect of the situation hinges on your prayer. James 5:16 says, “The urgent request of a righteous person is very powerful in its effect.” Prayer is not a one-sided conversation for you to tell God what you want or how you feel. He wants to talk to you too, but often we do not take the time to listen.
  2. Believe – Trust God to bring you through it. Psalms 34:19 says, “A righteous man may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all.” His plan is not our plan, so things may not work out exactly how we wanted. But He WILL carry you through. Proverbs 3:5 “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.”
  3. Read the Bible – Search for what God wants you to learn. Don’t just sit down to read quickly through a daily plan. Take the time to search for what God wants to say to you through those verses.
  4. Look for positive aspects of life – Each day make an effort to find one good thing no matter how desperate your situation. Record those blessings in a Gratitude Journal so that you can see and hold in your hand all the blessings He bestowed during the trials.
  5. Avoid whining and complaining – Instead of making you feel better, complaining actually highlights the negative, keeping it your focus, and just makes the situation worse.
  6. Serve others – Doing something for someone else in their time of need helps you forget your own troubles for a moment and increases your joy while decreasing your stress.
  7. Laugh – Laughing actually provides many benefits. It relaxes the body, relieves stress and pain, benefits heart and immune systems. Laughter really is good medicine. So watch a funny movie, hang out with a friend who tells stupid jokes, or whatever makes you laugh.

Finally, guard your bucket. Don’t allow Satan to steal your joy. He wants to rob you of your joy and will use anything possible to discourage us, cause us to worry, and even create doubt. When it seems that your Bucket Full of Joy is running low, go back to the well. Make sure that you are praying, believing, and reading your Bible. Make the choice every day to lower your bucket, and remember Psalms 30:5 which says, “Weeping may endure for the night, but joy comes in the morning.”

We won’t always be happy, but we can still have joy in the midst of the chaos.

If you have been blessed by this devotion and would like to subscribe, please click the link in the right column for Email Subscription or follow through the Strength Renewed Facebook page.

Still Small Voice

Do you ever search for direction from God? When I need his guidance, I would like to get some type of huge announcement or spectacular display so there’s no doubt what God wants me to do. Wouldn’t it be nice to hear an audible voice like that of Morgan Freeman, see an enormous billboard, or feel the heat of a burning bush? We watch and wait for an extraordinary sign that will announce His will, but God is often found not in the extraordinary, but in the ordinary.

In 1 Kings 19, Elija is in quite a mess after proving Baal was not the mighty god that many prophets claimed. His life has been threatened. He is feeling very alone and possibly sunk into a deep depression due to the circumstances. Elijah truly needed a sign from God.

Verses 11-12 say, “And behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice.”

When Elijah needed to hear God’s voice, there were massive events that Elijah probably assumed would lead to hearing from God. But even when God wasn’t in any of those moments, Elijah had enough faith to keep waiting. Eventually he heard not a loud booming voice, but instead, the still small voice of God.

When someone whispers, we have a tendency to pay closer attention. I know my eighth grade students all strain to hear every word if someone in the room is whispering. As I get older, I have discovered that I must focus even more to hear a whisper as I get older. If only we all strived that intently to hear God’s still small voice.

So why would God speak to us in such a quiet voice? Maybe His desire is simply that we draw near to Him. Stop looking for a huge announcement. Slow down, tune out all the distractions, and just focus on what He has to say. If we truly want to hear God’s voice, we need to purposely go to a quiet place and listen closely for that still small voice.

It wasn’t supposed to be this way. We’ve probably all said it or at least thought it when an unexpected crisis left us gasping for breath. Accidents happen. Bad decisions are made. Illness suddenly strikes. Death occurs. These events are not a part of our plan and will shake us to our core.

Before David was crowned king, he experienced one of these life shattering moments. In 1 Samuel 30, he and his men returned home to find their city in ruins and their families had been taken captive. Verse 4 says, So David and his men wept aloud until they had no strength left to weep.

The remainder of chapter 30 tells how David faced an unexpected crisis and provides some valuable lessons for our own challenges, even the small stuff.

1. Find strengthIt’s okay to cry, but find strength from the Lord as David did. (v. 6)

2. Pray for God’s direction – David inquired of the Lord (v. 8). Don’t react out of anger but instead seek God first.

3. Fight the enemy if God leads – Don’t allow Satan to knock you down and win. Get back up and fight! (v. 8, 17)

4. Some people may not stick with you or may turn against you – David’s men turned against him (v.6) and some were too exhausted to go to battle with David (v. 9-10). Unfortunately, your problems may be too intense for some friends to handle. Be thankful for those who offer support.

5. Minister to others despite your own crisis – David took time to stop and care for a man in need (v. 11). Ministering to others’ needs can relieve some of the stress of your own situation.

6. Share God’s blessings and grace with others – David shared the plunder with all (v. 26) Don’t keep to yourself God’s blessings through this crisis. You never know how it may help someone else.

When life isn’t going the way you thought it would, are you going to allow the unexpected crisis to break you, or will you jump up ready for battle? Satan will be waiting to crush your spirit, but instead go to God and ask Him how you should proceed. There is no crisis greater than God’s power and direction.

Ecclesiastes 3:4 says, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance. There are many seasons in life, and some will be difficult. But praise God there will also be many times to laugh and dance!

Well it’s that time again. Time to reflect on the past year, time to consider behaviors and attitudes that need to be adjusted, and time to refocus on those things that are most important.

As a new year approaches, Psalm 91:1 seems to be standing out for me. He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.

What is this secret place? It is a place of constant communion or close fellowship with God. When we stay closely connected to Him, we will also reside under His shadow where we will find rest from the heat that often makes a situation seem unbearable. His shadow also provides a shade of protection and a refuge from the storm. It’s a place where we can find comfort, peace, and safety.

When I am far from God, not relying on Him or worshipping Him daily, then I am also far from the comfort of His shadow. That’s when I find myself sweating the small stuff and frustrated that the heat is so intense. I may feel desperate, begin to doubt God, and take matters into my own hands. What I need is to move back to that secret place and recommit to Him.

Whether your New Years’ Resolution is to do away with bad habits or to improve some aspect of yourself, the most important key is to habitually dwell in the secret place because doing it alone often leads to resolutions that are quickly tossed aside.

This year, before making any other resolution, make a new commitment to live in the shelter of the Most High,

I am with You

Two years ago my daughter and I flew for the first time. We were both a little anxious about the entire process from security to landing and even how to make our way out of the airport. Since we were alone, we had no choice but to be strong, push forward, and walk through this journey together.

I had prayed many times for God to give us courage and for protection, and thankfully the entire trip was very smooth compared to all the concerns which had rushed through my mind in the days leading up to our flight.

My daughter, Lindsey, was anxious but also excited for her first flight. I, on the other hand, am afraid of heights, terrified on roller coasters, want to feel in control, and had the intentions of never, ever flying!

She immediately opened the window to see everything going on. I sat afraid to even look until the plane seemed to have leveled off and was no longer ascending higher into the air. When I finally did look out that tiny window, I was amazed at the beauty and comforted by the peace that I felt.

After landing and meeting my husband and son-in-law, we began to look through the pictures Lindsey had taken from the air.

When I saw this photo, I was immediately drawn to something that we had not seen as we were flying . I quickly zoomed in and very clearly saw an image which to me represented Jesus.

I was moved to tears. It seemed as though God was showing us that He had been with us throughout the trip. Although we did not see this image in the clouds when the photo was taken, He was there! It reminds me of the disciples in a boat as a storm raged all around them. They were so fearful, but Jesus was right there with them in that boat!

This zoomed-in photo has been the screen saver on my phone since that moment. It is a constant reminder of God’s presence through this earthly journey.

Two weeks after that flight, our family faced a raging storm when my husband was struck by a fire truck. It was a difficult time and still is sometimes, but I know without any doubt that God is with us!

Isaiah 41:10 says, “Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.”

Regardless of what you’re going through or what emotions you are struggling with, God can give you peace in the storm. You can face anything with confidence that God is with you. Whether it’s an exciting moment that causes just a little anxiety or something that causes great fear and a loss of control, He is there!

God’s Mighty Works

When life is tough and nothing seems to be going right, remember and focus on the mighty things that God has done in the past. He has led you through troubled waters before and made a way where no way seemed possible. He is still a God of miracles and mercy!

Eagle’s Wings

Do you ever feel like life has pushed you off the edge of a cliff, and you are flailing about in slow motion just waiting to crash into the hard ground? The good news is that God is right there ready to catch you.

As an eagle stirs up its nest, hovers over its young, spreading out its wings, taking them up, carrying them up on its wings, so the Lord alone led him. – Deuteronomy 32:11-12. When the baby eagle has grown enough to learn to fly, the mother eagle pushes him from the nest and lovingly hovers near. When necessary, she spreads her wings, and catches that little one in the safety of her protective wings.

Like a baby eagle, sometimes we must be pushed out of the nest in order to grow and learn to fly on our own. At times, God allows situations to come into our lives in order to grow our faith, to teach us to trust Him, and to remind us of His loving presence.

When it feels as if your life is out of control and you’ve been pushed from the nest, remember that God is hovering, ready to swoop in, and carry you on His wings. He will not let you fall. You just have to focus on Him, and He will lead you just as the mother eagle leads her young.

%d bloggers like this: