The following Sunday morning June 13th, after our 2nd Nashville visit we went to church. I believe I sort of still felt like I was in a daze, like what was happening really wasn’t real.
The sermon that morning was entitled 24/7 Joy.
The text was Phillipians 4:4-13
4 Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!
5 Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand.
6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
8 Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. 9 The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you.
10 But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at last your care for me has flourished again; though you surely did care, but you lacked opportunity. 11 Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: 12 I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. 13 I can do all things through Christ[b] who strengthens me.
The first bullet point was “Joy is a command, not an option.”
In between the first and second Nashville visit I was speaking to a friend and I got really honest with her. I said, “I feel like everyone wants me to be okay with all of this, but all I can think about is, ‘It’s easy for you to say that, you aren’t the one dealing with it and you won’t have to.’ ” She was sweet, but very quick to warn me against going down that road and giving a place to those type of thoughts. Frankly, it angered me. What right did she have to tell me how to feel? Why was she on “their’ side? I was mad. I ended the conversation quickly. I didn’t want to be rebuked. Not then.
Then the Holy Spirit nudged me. He assured me she was only helping and He reminded me of what I should have been meditating on…..”whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.” I called her back and thanked her for being so honest with me, even if it was hard, I needed to hear it. From that place on I really tried to keep myself from going down those roads of thought which would only leave me embittered and angry with God.
Then I walked into church that day and there it was – this command – to have joy. I thought, “Really? Right now?” It seemed so impossible. Then God’s word spoke again, “I can do all things through Christ[b] who strengthens me.” Wow. How do people do this without Christ?
I went home and put the sermon outline on my fridge. I knew I was going to need it again. The next week God continued to speak to me and minister to me through our circumstances and through His word being preached. I went to the church office for something that week and I ran into Bro. Nick, our pastor. I tried to tell him how the sermons were ministering to me and my eyes quickly swelled with tears. He asked if he could speak to me for a moment. He wasn’t planning on asking Peter and I unless God placed us in his path sometime that week. We haven’t been attending Wednesday night church for a while, so he really thought he wouldn’t see us. He knew what we were going through and he gently and hesitantly asked if we would be willing to share our story in church on the following Sunday morning. I told him I would talk to Peter and have him get back with him.
I talked with Peter on Tuesday. He wasn’t sure, but we discussed it. I’m typically an open book, I really was open to the opportunity. I really felt God was working in our life and to be able to share it was exciting to me and gave purpose to it all. Peter is a bit more reserved than I am (for which I’m thankful!) Although the idea excited me at first, the more I thought about it, the more terrified I became.
But by Friday, Peter had decided we should do it. Shaylea and I left that day for a mother/daughter retreat. We got back, exhausted, late Saturday afternoon. Peter and I still didn’t know what we were going to share exactly. Can’t say we were either one excited at this point. We both kind of thought, “What have we agreed to?” But there was no turning back. We stayed up drafting what was supposed to be 5-7 minutes of sharing. We finally felt like we had a bit of an outline, so we wouldn’t ramble. We prayed that God might use our story and what He was/is teaching us to glorify Himself somehow. That is still our prayer.
I’m so thankful that we did share. We have been embraced so warmly by everyone. There isn’t a week that goes by that I don’t receive encouragement from several of my church family. We covet everyone’s prayers and we are so thankful that we have the privilege of being a part of the body of Christ. Knowing Jesus through this has indeed brought purpose and fulfillment to an otherwise hopeless situation.
1 John 1:3-4