By Sam Olson
I struggled with joy this past December. I couldn’t find it and I certainly couldn’t feel it. I felt like I had followed God’s voice into something huge, and yet for some reason that huge plan seemed like it wasn’t coming into fruition. For years I have struggled with infertility. In February of 2017 however, we began our adoption journey. We had prayed about this decision and felt strengthened in our hearts to move forward into it.
At first it felt like we were stepping out in faith, entrusting every ounce of control over the growth of our family to our Heavenly Father and following into whatever situation God was calling us into. In theory we were told adoption journeys are hard. My head knowledge of adoption situations knew that to be true. I thought I was ready for it. But my heart must have missed the memo.
I have come to discover that communication and control are things you must surrender in this journey. Most of the reasons for that are because this story belongs first and foremost to the birth mothers and the babies who make any of this possible to begin with. It is their story to hold. It is God’s story to write. And it is the adoptive parents job to wait.
“I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.” – Psalm 27:13-14 NIV
The word I have chosen to give up for 2018 is Expectations. I must confess that although I found myself willing to follow into the new path of adoption that God was pressing into my heart, I found myself expecting that because I had heard God and obeyed Him, He would for some reason make this new path to grow our family easier for me. But friends, just because we are willing to follow into something big and new at the direction of our Heavenly Father, does not mean that the new road will be without bumps. If the new things God calls us to were easy, they would not require the type of faith that says, “Lord, I trust you with every moment. I trust where You will lead us even if the road to get there is hard. I will trust You even when I can’t see what the outcome will be.”
I’ve heard these phrases repeated through my mind over and over again, “Will you worship God, even in this? Will you find joy in the manger bed of Jesus, even in this? Can you still proclaim joy to the world even when you are struggling to feel it? Does your joy still exist?”
I often find that much of my disappointment in this world is directly linked to my expectations for how I think things should go. When I hold too tightly to those expectations, I begin to wrestle away my trust in God’s control over my life. I can often feel God calling me to surrender, and yet at the same time notice my knuckles gripping onto my plans for my life even tighter causing me to lose sight of true joy.
LET IT GO
In surrendering we find that joy goes deep. Joy is unspeakable and full of glory. Joy is proclaimed to the world from the heavens in the darkest of nights. The Joy of the Lord can never be extinguished. But know this, it is something that the enemy wants us to feel unworthy of. What happens when our New Year’s resolutions and our expectations for the year ahead fall through? We feel guilt. We feel disappointment. We feel grief. If we want to know joy that won’t ever fail us we must look to Jesus, who contains the very joy of the Lord. And we must surrender our expectations to God, who knows us better than we can ever know ourselves.
What is it that you are holding too tightly to? Is it your career plans? Is it the number of your social media followers? Is it your plans to grow your family? Is it your hopes to find a spouse? I’m not saying that we should never make plans for our lives, or that we should never hope or dream about things to come. Instead, I am saying that when we make room for God to enter into the parts of our lives that mean the most to us, (those parts we can’t seem to relinquish control over), we are saying to God the same things that Abraham’s faith told God as he willingly left the safety of home to follow God into a place unknown: we trust that God will provide, we believe that God is good, and we are confident in His love for us.
“By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him in the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.” – Hebrews 11:8-10 (NIV)
I pray that God is the architect and builder of all of our plans this year and that we will be captivated by the joy of the Lord more than we are by our earthly expectations. I pray that disappointment will never steal our joy, and the that enemy will never convince any of us that we are unworthy of the joy that Jesus provides. And finally, I pray that we have the faith to change course from our well laid plans in order to follow the voice of our Heavenly Father into whatever new adventure or battle He calls us to. Go boldly into this new year, friends, armed with faith and secure in the Joy of the Lord, no matter what your today looks like.