My flowers didn’t bloom last year.
It had been a long hard year, and when summer came, I was really looking forward to them. But they didn’t come.
As I drove around the island I would look longingly at other flamboyant trees and wondered what happened to mine. I wondered if something was wrong with them... if there was something I should do... you know prune them, treat them, call in a specialist...
But my Mom kept saying, “Carlie, every tree is different. They will bloom when they are ready.”
Sounded like good parenting advice to me, but I still missed my flowers and I secretly searched for ways to fix the problem. For that is what it was... a problem.
But my Mom was right, for this year, my flowers are back in full radiant splendor.
Now, each morning as I walk out to the porch, I am amazed at the vibrancy of my flowers and the resulting joy they bring me.
But, it makes me think about God, about his absolute sovereignty... about His control over nature, time and events and even more... about my response to His timing and control.
Yes, I know, I’m a bit strange... my kids accuse me of finding a life lesson in everything, but I can’t help it... it’s just the way God has made me. (smile)
Anyway, am I ‘happy’ only when my ‘flowers’ are blooming?
What happens when there are no blooms... when I’m going through a drought... a lean period... do I trust that God is still in control even then... that He has a plan... a good one... the best plan for me... even when I don’t understand?
Or do I try to grab the reins out of His hands... sulking all the while?
Do I lose my joy when the 'flowers' don’t bloom?
That word has been teasing me for the last few years.
Having lost two key persons in my life within the last two years and fallen into a survival mode mentality, I was in desperate need of ‘morning’ and the joy that comes with it. I was waiting for my 'flowers' to bloom... for the challenges to be gone... for life’s pieces to all fit together... for there to be smooth sailing.
But... it never quite gets there. Does it? If I wanted joy I had to find it despite the uncertainty of life. I knew where to find it too, but somehow it kept eluding me. Was I doing something wrong?
Had I forgotten to prepare for joy?
Christmas in July
The words of the Christmas carol had been playing in my mind for months. Had I missed something?
What did I need to do to prepare?
And just like with my flowers that year... I saw it as a problem that I needed to fix... something that I needed to do.
But the answer was to be found nestled in an unlikely place within the words of God.
‘looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross,’ Hebrews 12:2
There are two precious keys buried here:
‘Looking to Jesus’... forgetting who I am and remembering who He is... the author and finisher of my faith.
‘Who for the joy set before him endured’... he submitted to the Father... accepted His will... even as he endured the suffering... He accepted that His Father’s plan was best.
And it was. I am so thankful that He bent His will.
And therein lies the secret.
The secret to joy lies in gladly surrendering to my Father’s will... in keeping a quiet heart before Him... by accepting that He knows best and trusting His plan. It frees me from trying to control life... to gladly serving the One who does.
But glad surrender can be painfully hard.
I struggle to let go. I want to but ‘what I want to do I do not do’. Romans 7:15
Yet each day... rather each moment offers me a new opportunity to hand over the reins of my life... to accept the offer of a peacefully sweet hope-filled relationship with God... and to prepare for joy His way... by simply surrendering to Him.
I’ve since learned that ‘Joy to the World’ is not really a Christmas song (thanks David Jeremiah), rather it is a song that joyfully looks forward to the millennial rule of Christ... a time during which all who have surrendered to Him will experience joy to the full.
Now I feel better, now I understand... until that glorious time joy will remain a fight.
I see it clearly.
On days, when I let go, when I surrender... when I keep a quiet heart before my Father... even when my ‘flowers’ don’t bloom... peace comes and joy flows.
But there are days when the struggle is real. When convinced that I can find it nowhere else, I fight for joy in God.
And this is how I fight.
'See and savor' Jesus anew,
Offer my life as a living sacrifice,
Yield to God’s love and plan for me.
It's a fight for an 'even when' joy. And the best part is I don’t have to fight alone, for even the very desire to submit, my Father lovingly provides. How blessed am I? (Philippians 2:13)
What about you?
Have you forgotten to prepare for joy?
Clinging onto the reins of control?
Are you willing to surrender?
Yes, I know it’s painful, but it is so worth it.
To read more about the fight for joy in God, feel free to visit John Piper at DesiringGod.org.