I hope that this Sunday Morning Update finds you healthy and joyful this week. I say “joyful” because that’s a decision that you and I make, whereas “happy” is merely a reaction to your circumstances. But life is far too important to allow your perception of it to be buffeted around by your circumstances -- instead, let your perception of your circumstances be dictated by your decision to find joy.
Of course, that’s all so much hogwash if we try to do that without recognizing the God who sculpts all things. I mean, without God, that whole, “find joy, even in the midst of hardship” thing is basically just trying to pretend that the hard world is actually nice and soft and pleasant and hopeful -- it’s putting a pretty pink bow on a porcupine and pretending that it’s no longer prickly.
But if we remember that God created this world, and that God created you and me, and that God cares about His Creation -- that He never stepped away sit back and watch the world like a child watches a wind-up toy -- then we can know that it’s no mere fantasy to rest in joy, no matter what the circumstances. Happiness says, “I feel good, because my situation is pleasant,” but joy decides, “I feel genuinely content, because I trust that God knows what He’s doing, and I’m actively trying to listen to Him.” With that perspective in mind, even the hardest circumstance can bring you to joy, because it points your heart and your mind toward the fact that the God who superintends all of life’s circumstances has already planned how to walk with you through this one. So instead of feeling like we have to figure out “how to get through it,” we can focus on “how to glorify God in it,” and that logically helps us turn stress into joy.
In our message this week, we talked about how God created us to be beautiful in His eyes -- which is a concept that throws people.
Some people think that means that we’re supposed to look good, look clean, look like we’ve got it all together. But passages like 1 Peter 3:3-4 and Proverbs 31:30 remind us that beauty is an inward thing, a sincere thing, and not something that can be painted on our outsides and impress God.
Other people struggle because they know the ugliness of their humanity and they can’t imagine how God could ever see them as beautiful. But the extended analogy of Ezekiel 16 and verses like Ephesians 5:25-27 show how our Lord sees His people -- and how He was willing to give His life to cleanse us to appear in His eyes.
Yes, our sin hurts our relationship with God -- Ezekiel shows how our sin hurts God’s heart -- but we can never sin enough to make God cease loving us, or cease desiring to be in relationship with us.
It’s a wise literary rule of thumb that teaches us that if a book makes a point at its beginning and makes the same point at the end, we can reasonably assume that that’s probably the main point that the author was trying to make. With that in mind, look at the beginning of the Bible, and look at the end -- in the beginning, God created a sinless humanity to be in perfect, beautiful relationship with Him on a perfect Earth... and at the end of time, God promises to be in perfect, beautiful relationship with a redeemed humanity on a perfect Earth.
From the beginning of the Bible to its end, the whole point is to present the love story between God and the people whom He sculpted to be beautiful in His eyes. If that’s the God who walks with us on a daily basis, then how can we not feel joy -- regardless of petty things like daily circumstances -- and a peace that passes all understanding?