Today is the final day of the 40-day challenge to find more joy in life. I began this project on February 26, 2020—the first day of Lent. The world changed radically over the course of those 40 days.
It began with naiveté as I went about my daily life with a sense of safety and security. I am a Christian. I spend time with God each morning reading scripture and journaling my prayers. Over the past few years, he has been speaking to me about the importance of my thinking. Romans 12:2 (NLT) includes the line, “let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.” Belief, faith, hope…these are all things that take place on the inner plain of the mind. As Tommy Newberry has expressed many times in the guidebook for this journey, 40-Days to a Joy-Filled Life, thinking is the force that determines emotions, actions, and character. Everything starts with a thought.
Because of the time and attention I had given this concept, I felt like I was getting pretty good at it. But God always makes sure to give us real world practice! By March 13 it became clear that it was time to test my lessons and this journey to joy took on a lot more significance. The storm had been gathering since January when the first reports of the coronavirus began coming out of China. On March 13, 2020 when the president announced a National State of Emergency, the gravity of the situation began to hit home. The beast was on the loose! People were sick and dying. Economic foundations crumbled. We were all locked-down at home while the gale force winds swirled outside the door–seeping into the house through computers, televisions, and hand-held devices.
James, the brother of Jesus, tells us how we should look at these opportunities to test our faith. “Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So, let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing (James 1: 2-4 NLT). James is also clear that God doesn’t cause these trials, but when we patiently endure them, he gives us the crown of life.
One of the goals I had previously set for myself is to be content and to help others to be content. My definition of contentment is: satisfaction with my place in life, knowing that where I am in the perfect place for me at this moment and, in this moment, I have available to me all the love, resources, energy, knowledge and wisdom I need to be, do, and have everything this moment requires. This moment is all there is.
That goal has been severely challenged during this time.
Newberry’s last lesson in the book is to remind us that to be in God’s presence is unmatched and unmistakable joy. Nothing else compares. He states that God’s presence is, “comforting, purifying, invigorating, inspiring, encouraging, fortifying, and serene all at the same time. It is impossible to experience his presence and remain unchanged.” It is my habit of personal quiet time that has allowed me to keep going during this and other challenging times in my life.
Every morning I sit with God. Give him my troubles like so many knotted gold chains in a bag. He empties the bag, untangles the snarls, lays the chains out in straight rows, and the world seems right again. Like a child, I scoop them up, put them back in the bag and remain completely surprised that they twist themselves around each other again. He patiently does it all over again the next morning. And the next.
I know it’s hard to get started on this relationship with your Creator, but if I or Tommy Newberry could convince you to try just one suggestion from this book, this would be it. The benefits far outweigh the sacrifice of time. I started slowly more than 30 years ago with a plan from a flyer I found that described how to have a quiet time in just seven minutes. The plan was developed by Robert D. Foster and you can find it here.
That’s your assignment for today. Go to the link and try it out. Just spend seven minutes with God. It doesn’t matter what time of day or where. He’s always right there with you whenever you take the time to look his way.
What’s stopping you?