Monday, May 1, 2017

There is Wonderful Joy Ahead

I just got done spending time with God, and I have all of these thoughts swirling around in my head and heart about what I just read. I was going to type this all out, journal style, into a google doc, just to get it out of my brain. But then I thought, "maybe someone else needed this today, too." So here I am. A jumbled mess of thoughts, doing my best to share what I just took away from this fruitful quiet time. 
Last year was really hard, and I did not handle my stress well (as I've talked about before). This year, I've really made an effort to lower my stress levels, handle things better, and take time for myself and to decompress when necessary. Up until about a month ago, it was really helping a lot. Then, several really stressful situations all piled up and the last month has been just really hard. This weekend, I was doing a lot of reflection on what I can do in the coming weeks to combat some of this and not be such a mess of stress. One of those things was to actually sit down and have a good, deep God time. I have been consistently reading and following a reading plan, but the last several weeks I've just been reading it on my phone and maybe praying a little and it hasn't been cutting it for me. I grow most when I sit down, open an actual Bible, spend time reading, reflecting and praying on all of it. So today that's what I did. My reading plan had me in 1 Peter 1 and it was definitely one of those times where I'm like, ok God...I see you. 
One thing I have really been learning lately is that there are just so many things I cannot control. I can do as much as I can do, and I can pray, but the rest is in God's hands. I have been learning that God is God. I am not God. This has been huge for me lately. Of course, I didn't literally think I was God, but so often I try to control things and sometimes, you just can't. You have to just let go of things and trust God with it and trust Him with whatever the outcome is! GOD has the bigger picture....I don't. We won't always know why doors are closed, or why things do or don't happen, but God always knows. 
So back to today. I'm reading in 1 Peter 1. The first huge "I need to stop and ponder and pray on that" verse was verse 6: 

The context around this verse is Peter talking about salvation. In verses 4-5 he mentions our "priceless inheritance that is kept in heaven". But did you get that?! Be TRULY glad. There is WONDERFUL JOY ahead (salvation), even though you have to endure MANY TRIALS for a LITTLE WHILE. The trials of this life are but a blip in eternity, aren't they? Easy to forget when they feel so overwhelming, or like they are going on forever (hello, foster care). But God wants us to focus our eyes and hearts on eternity. That is the true gift, isn't it? If all of the things I am momentarily stressed out about end up well and in my favor, that still won't be enough to give me true joy. Jesus is the only One that can make me truly glad. So as I am spending time thinking about all of this, I am realizing how important it is to not just be wishing the trials were over, and looking forward to when this is all said and done, but to actually be living in this moment, however hard it is. To be bringing glory to God with my actions and how I handle these situations, and where I place my joy and gladness. Verse 7 goes on to say, "So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world." 
Later, Peter goes on to write, "So think clearly and exercise self-control. Look forward to the gracious salvation that will come to you when Jesus Christ is revealed to the world. So you must live as God's obedient children. Don't slip back into your old ways of living to satisfy your own desires. You didn't know any better then. But now you must be holy in everything you do, just as God who chose you is holy. For the scriptures say, "You must be holy because I am holy." (1 Peter 1:13-16 emphasis added) 
How often am I holy amidst trials? But there he says, in everything you do. Not just when things are going well. Not "be holy when it's convenient for you". But be holy in EVERYTHING. Why? Because GOD is holy and we are to be His obedient children. Whew. That is convicting. I don't have to like my trials. I don't have to be glad that I am stressed out and going through these things, but I am called to be holy in Christ likeness, no matter what my circumstances are. I can be so shortsighted some times, not thinking about the glorious day when Christ is revealed. It is so easy for me to fully envelope myself in stress and hard ships, not focusing my heart on eternity and spending forever with my savior. I am thankful for that reminder today, and for the reminder that I don't have to wait until my trials are over to glorify God. I can do that every day with the way I handle things, and with where I fix my eyes. 
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