Joy: A Godly Woman’s Adornment

Once when a friend and I were heading toward the same door at church, she called our in her usual cheery voice, “Good morning, Barbara! How are you?”

I replied, “Doing okay. How about you?”

Just okay?” She sounded really dismayed that I wasn’t more than okay.

Well—to my thinking, okay was pretty good. Nothing hurt, nothing was wrong. I’m not an effusive person, so I wouldn’t generally respond in a really excited way unless something spectacular was happening.

For a while, I wondered if there was something wrong with me that I wasn’t more like my friend. In fact, the thought of always being so enthusiastic sounded exhausting to me. I finally attributed our responses to our very different personalities.

Still, I sometimes wondered if joy was always a bubbling brook, or if it was sometimes a steady undercurrent.

Those thoughts, and the fact that I had read and enjoyed some of Lydia Brownback’s other writings, encouraged me to get her book Joy: A Godly Woman’s Adornment.

This book is one in a series of “On the Go Devotionals.” Each entry is short, two to three pages in my Kindle app. There are forty-two devotions which concentrate on a different Bible verse about joy.

While we might go through times of sorrow and trial, gloominess and moodiness usually come from “looking at what we lack rather than all we have” (p. 9).

Even those of us going through a season of darkness can pursue joy, trusting that God designed us for it. Sooner or later, in Christ, we will find it. The trick for some of us is to change our self-oriented, worldly focus to Christ, and for others it is to take fresh hold of God’s promises that no matter how dark life seems, he is going to push you out into the light. . .

Our moodiness dishonors God and robs us of the happiness that lies right at our fingertips. If we want to change—to live with perpetual joy—we must pursue it, and in Christ we are guaranteed to find it. (p. 10).

In the very first entry, Lydia declares, “Self-surrender leads to joy” (p. 15). That doesn’t sound very joyful, does it? We think we’d be pretty happy if everything went our way.

We cannot imagine how we will survive without that certain relationship or plan. It feels like death. That’s because it is death. It’s the losing of our lives that Jesus was talking about [in Matthew 10:39: “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it”].

When we are facing the death of self, the costliness of discipleship, we are likely to pull back unless we remember the promise we have been given about how it will all turn out. The man in Jesus’ parable wound up owning the field. And Jesus said that those who lose their lives—all the earthly things they lean on for happiness and security—will find what they have been looking for all along. God will see to that (pp. 15-16).

I have many more quotes marked than I can share, but here are some that especially stood out to me:

Each trial is a gift. It’s a chance to know God’s strength and supernatural joy and to show that following him is worth everything (p. 24).

It is impossible to keep an eye out for God’s blessings while harboring a complaining spirit (p. 28).

We will never know lasting joy in the Lord if we seek to understand him by what goes on in the world or by our circumstances. The only way to joy is to interpret our circumstances by God’s Word rather than to judge God by our circumstances (p. 40).

Joy is the outworking of worship (p. 43).

We don’t need ten tips to a better spiritual life. What we need is to put God out front in our thoughts, priorities, time, and activities. If we allow his Word to govern us, we will see that he delights to show us “the path of life” and the path for our life (p. 45).

The joy promised in Scripture is different from the joy of personal expectation, our hope of some good thing we want God to do in our lives. While it is natural to hope for a good outcome in our difficulties and to trust God for it, we set ourselves up for a spiritual crisis if we expect that things will work out as we think they should (p. 60).

Joyful feelings are also not a yardstick to be used to determine how well we are doing spiritually. Feelings of closeness to the Lord are a wonderful blessing, but they are not an indicator of God’s acceptance of us. Christ is the only indicator. If we blur the distinction, we are going to worry about our spiritual standing whenever the good feelings aren’t present (p. 60).

God wills that we live in constant expectation of his appearing. We are to look for him in his Word, in his providences in our daily lives, in our sorrows, in our needs, and in our failures. He comes to us in Christ in all these things, but we miss him because we aren’t looking for him (p. 71).

The Holy Spirit doesn’t give us more love or more faithfulness or more joy. He gives us Christ, and as he does, joy and all the rest are produced within us as the fruit of that union (p. 73).

The joy of trials is rarely found in the circumstances of our difficulties. Rather, it is found when we stop fighting against what God is doing and seek his purposes and priorities, which always without exception are designed for our welfare. Whatever the difficulty—even one brought about by our sin—we can leave the outcome in God’s hands (p. 76).

How can we help what we feel? We just can’t muster up joyful feelings; that’s true. But we can rejoice, which sooner or later leads to joyful feelings. Rejoicing is not a feeling. It is joy in action. It is the humble willingness to offer God praise and thanks in all things, regardless of how we feel at the moment (p. 98).

We can experience joy in the Lord despite our circumstances. After reading this book, my thoughts ran to Psalm 43:3-5, a passage Lydia didn’t use:

Send out your light and your truth;
    let them lead me;
let them bring me to your holy hill
    and to your dwelling!
T
hen I will go to the altar of God,

    to God my exceeding joy,
and I will praise you with the lyre,
    O God, my God.

Why are you cast down, O my soul,
    and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
    my salvation and my God.

That passage in turn reminded me of this song, based on this passage. The words and story behind the song are here.

Laudable Linkage

IMG_0195

I’m waaaay behind on my blog reading. But I wanted to go ahead and share the ones concerning Christmas before it was all over.

We Need a Little Christmas! I love both meanings of this post by Lesley.

This Is Not How I Thought My Story Would Go, HT to Diane Heeney. Good applications drawn from Mary’s life.

We Wait in Darkness: Some Thoughts for Advent. “In Advent, we wait in the darkness. But we do not, I am convinced, wait hopelessly. For while we wait, we can tend the flame. The stories each of our homes are telling can be ones that lend flesh to truth, goodness, and beauty, so that the waiting we do can tend the flame of the Gospel flickering inside our hearts.”

Goodnight Till Then. Those of you who know Tim Challies know that his college-age son died suddenly and unexpectedly a few weeks ago. Also from Tim: When All Seems to Be Gain, Plan for Loss.

Do You Ever Wonder? Lessons Learned from Rebecca. Both Rebekah and Sarah manipulated events instead of trusting God’s promises. We all leave a string of failures in our wake, but thank God He redeems them.

Looking for Joy? Abide. “In addressing His disciples hours before His arrest, Jesus tells them over and over to abide, to remain, to dwell in Him. He knows that they’re worried about what life will look like without Him, so He gives them these instructions for a specific reason: “that [their] joy may be full” (John 15:11).”

On Benedictions, Part 1: He Who Is Able. “This passage doesn’t promise that we’ll never stumble into sin. But it does promise that God’s grace can enable us to persevere to the end—to stand before his throne still blameless, still washed by the blood of Christ, still cleansed from the sin in which we all too readily engaged.”

Assurance in an Age of Cancel Culture, HT to Challies. These days of being so easily “cancelled” when the culture at large doesn’t like what we say can make us fearful of speaking out. “This article is an outpouring of my inner war with ‘cancel culture’ and fear of man. These Biblical truths are weapons of warfare for me in the middle of my fight with ‘cancel culture.’”

Meatloaf Ministry. If you’ve ever been part of a church food ministry or any behind-the-scenes ministry, this will bless you.

Social Justice in Our Divided Age. Not everyone means the same thing by that term, which causes confusion and even hard feelings at times. I thought this was a good explanation.

Happy Saturday!

Laudable Linkage

This is my latest collection of thought-provoking online reads:

Is the God of the Bible a Genocidal Maniac? HT to Challies. No, but some have made that accusation. Here is a thoughtful response.

When Joy Feels Far Away, HT to True Woman. “What do you do when you have tried everything, but joy still feels far away?”

How to Study the Bible. I have not had a chance to watch these videos yet, and I normally wouldn’t post something I haven’t checked out for myself first. But Jen Wilkin’s Women of the Word is one of my favorite books. An updated version has just been released, and Jen published a series of videos showing how to use the Bible study method she writes about.

A Stack of Bibles. “The power of the Reformation was the power of the Word of God in the hands of normal people.”

How to Hope in God When a Door Closes.

My Love Cannot Save You, HT to Challies. As deep and wide and strong as a mother’s love is, we’re still limited in how much we can protect our children. “I can’t prevent her pain or her tears, but I know the One who wraps his arms around her and catches every tear in a bottle, present and attentive to each one.”

How TO (and how NOT to) Raise a Monstrous Son, HT to Lou Ann. “For his own good, and for the good of all the women he will encounter in life, he needs you to stand up to him when he crosses the line, especially in regard to using his physical strength to harm others.”

Four Things the Princess Culture Gets Wrong, HT to True Woman. “Rather than jumping on the bandwagon of the mommy wars—to princess or not to princess—I’ve opted to reframe the concept according to biblical truth.”

Why NO ONE Should Object to Clean Teen Fiction. Believe it or not, some do! These are good reasons they shouldn’t.

I don’t follow many comics online, but xkcd is one. Here are a couple of recent entries:

Happy Saturday!