This morning’s church service focused on the nature of joy, a promise of God. Our minister denounced joy as an emotion, but rather declared it as a condition of the heart.
At one point, he said, “joy is a never-ending gift of grace,” and my heart nearly stopped.
The reality of this statement struck me at the core. As believers in Christ Jesus, a rock-solid promise of joy and its eternal gracious nature is ours. Forever. Regardless of the circumstances in which we find ourselves.
I am not a counselor, but thinking of the tireless, gracious gift of joy rattled my perspective on the healing process as an adult survivor of childhood sexual abuse.
In spite of the pain that accompanies the healing process, as believers in Christ as our Savior, we have the privilege of doggedly pursuing joy in Christ in the midst of the storms of living in a fallen world.
The question arises, then, how does one actively white-knuckle the promise of joy when the pain feels insurmountable?
The next four points are nothing new, but the reality, at least in my own life, is that when I face challenges and heartaches, it’s easy to be distracted from the wellsprings of life.
How to pursue joy through pain.
1. Prayerfully ask for help.
Recognizing our sinful nature, I can’t imagine how anyone can pursue any kind of goodness in his or her own strength. We need God’s help, first and foremost, by connecting with Him daily.
I believe we need God to help us pursue His gift of joy. In fact, I believe He delights to have His Spirit showcase the depth of joy that already exists within us.
Luke 11:13 states it even more plainly: “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?”
Our salvation, our intimacy with Him, and our promise of a redeemed future in our eternal home are all touchstones of his perpetual, gracious gift of joy. The last few months, I’ve experienced His joy through pain in spite of the various medical issues I’ve been facing.
2. Think according to His Word.
Hebrews states that “the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (4.12).
While processing emotions, memory, hurt, and broken relationships as a result of sexual perversion, the Word of God provides clarity, strength, and wisdom. In the moment of suffering, it’s often impossible to see clearly on our own.
Relying upon the Spirit of God and His Word for clarity will enable our minds to focus on eternal truths while our hearts continue to grieve and process the emotional burdens of abuse.
3. Transparently grieve in safety.
The healing journey for the childhood sexual abuse survivor is lifelong. It seems that with each new season of life, there pops-up new and, at times, ridiculously challenging baggage of hurt linked back to those early years.
During those new seasons, I’ve found that I cannot experience or even pursue joy on my own. Not in my own strength and not in solitude.
I’ve learned that through the process of sharing my heartaches with mature, Christian women and my husband, I can heal and locate that promise of joy faster and with greater ease.
I’ve also learned that not all women are safe for my heart. It’s essential to befriend mature, same-sexed Christians and to test the waters, so to speak, before pouring out your heart.
It’s okay to go deep with some women and not with others. Prayerfully ask the Lord to assist you in this process if you don’t already have a safe connection with someone.
4. Praise Him on the other side.
One of my favorite ways to experience joy is to reach that side of the healing process when the pain is a bit more manageable–or gone–and I can give thanks and praise for the ways in which My Father in heaven ministered to me during the storm.
Praising the Lord doesn’t require that you spill all the beans about what you’ve been through. It doesn’t require you to stand in front of a large crowd of people to testify His provision, either.
It does mean that in our own circles of influence–and we all have them–that we vocalize (yes! out loud) how great and marvelous our God has been to us.
Find a verse that has touched your heart. Memorize it, then share it.
By doing this, joy radiates through your body and through the body of Christ. It’s true. When you praise the Lord in an authentic and noticeable manner, it’s unmistakable to the other believers and stirs their spirit to pursue the same joy about which you’ve testified.
The Christmas season can be a challenging time for us as survivors. I desire that we pursue joy this season, and I intend to write about practical ways in which to process the celebratory side of Christmas leading up to Christmas.
Most importantly, we have access to a never-ending gift of grace called joy. I don’t know about you, but I long for a joyful heart–no matter what–for the rest of my days.
What’s your next step?
What circumstances or relationships seem to interfere with you pursuing the promise of joy? How will you begin making radical changes in your daily routine in order to fully commit to pursuing the joy you’ve already been given?
I will extol You, O Lord, for You have lifted me up,
And have not let my enemies rejoice over me.
2 O Lord my God,
I cried to You for help, and You healed me.
3 O Lord, You have brought up my soul from Sheol;
You have kept me alive, that I would not go down to the pit.
4 Sing praise to the Lord, you His godly ones,
And give thanks to His holy
5 For His anger is but for a moment,
His favor is for a lifetime;
Weeping may last for the night,
But a shout of joy comes in the morning (Psalm 30:1-5)
Join me on the healing journey.
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