Sometimes Joy Takes Practice

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13 (NIV)


I shared previously about how God burned my blanket of depression two short months ago.  Looking back over my journey with my Father from the past few years, He has given me a glimpse of the bigger picture of what He’s been doing and I’m humbled and so appreciative.  Today I’d like to share a little bit of that revelation with you for no other reason than to offer encouragement that He’s doing a “big picture” work in your life also.

My spiritual journey actually began over a decade ago when I told God I didn’t think I trusted Him, but that I wanted to.  So much so, that I was willing to go on a journey with Him to learn how to trust, but to please be gentle in the process.  A little over five years ago, God whispered to me to ask Him to give me a word for the entire year.  I asked and He’s been answering ever since. Balance/moderation, Grace, Hope, Peace, and for 2017 He chose to give me two words:  Joy and Blessings.  I wasn’t sure I was hearing right when I got two words (that seemed selfish) but I can tell you having traveled through half of 2017 already, He has definitely given both abundantly.

I didn’t realize the significance of the word of the year until this past year.  I think God got my attention with balance/moderation.  It took me longer than one year to work on that one… and I’m still adjusting it going forward.  The year He gave me grace was a tough year.  I realized it was more than just learning how to receive it, it was learning how to give it without expecting anything in return.  I didn’t want Hope in 2015.  I wasn’t looking forward to Hope at all – Hope meant to me I would never achieve what I wished (hoped) for.  It would always stay just out of reach.  Little did I know what God was really teaching me that year.  Peace.  2016 ushered in peace, but not in the way one would think.  It meant my year was full of opportunities to ask for, learn how to recognize and receive God’s peace.  Real peace.  It was an election year for the United States.  It was a year where I prayed silently for God’s peace to surround the classroom of first graders, their teacher and I as we sat through a lockdown for a bomb threat.  It was the year my other children had their own lockdown in their school for a similar threat a few short weeks later.  It was a year of waiting for doctor’s reports, disease diagnoses and having to wait.  It wasn’t a peaceful year; yet, I learned how to recognize and truly rest in God’s peace.

That leads me to Joy.  The word for this year. Blessings, too, but those are just a result of obedience, faithfulness and God’s amazing grace – very much appreciated and never to be taken for granted.  However, I want to talk about joy for a minute.  I never would have understood the significance of joy had I not learned the true meaning of hope and learned how to find God’s peace.  I never would be able to appreciate the full meaning of the word joy if God hadn’t freed me from the fear of winter driving or begun the healing work of food addiction and healing from emotional wounds.  I never would be able to experience the full measure of joy without the complete burning of the depression blanket that occurred over two months ago.  However, I’m finding that just because the blanket of depression has been burned, God gave me an entire year with the word joy because I need that long to remember how to live in it daily. I find I have to give myself permission to feel His joy, but I’m learning.  And I’m realizing that practicing can be a lot of fun.  Come back next time as I share with you the work that God continues to do and how I know He will finish His work of teaching me how to live in joy daily.

© Cheri Swalwell 2017


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