One of the shows I love to watch on TV is “Alone”. It’s a true survival show unlike many other ones out there. They take 10 survival specialists, drop them off in late September somewhere where it’s going to have extensive time below zero and leave them with only ten items to survive on. They have to build a shelter, gather firewood, find food and fight the mental battle of loneliness knowing all they have to do is push a button and they can go home to warmth and family. Many contestants go weeks eating nothing or very little. When they do get food, it’s incredible to see how appreciative they are. It’s also heartbreaking at times watching them break down missing their loved ones. You’re rewarded at the end by having their spouse show up to tell them they’ve won and getting to see their joy.
I like to tell people that you can only experience as much joy as you have sorrow. You can only experience as much satisfaction as hunger you have known. Also you can only know as much healing as your brokenness. The greater your valley, the more wonderful your mountain top experience will be. Many of us spend a lot of time, effort, energy and prayers to get out of the valley, but I believe God uses them to show us greater depths of His grace and to bring us closer to Him on the mountain tops. When you’re so broken that you can only rely on Him to rescue you, you find complete dependence on Him. When you’re so hungry to hear from Him, you learn to block everything else out and listen. When He answers, it’s that much sweeter and your faith grows.
In Luke 6, Jesus was surrounded by people desperate for a word from God, for healing and for the Messiah. He began to speak to them about what really matters. In verse 21 He said, “How filled you become when you are consumed with hunger and desire, for you will be completely satisfied. How content you become when you weep with complete brokenness, for you will laugh with unrestrained joy” (TPT). Jesus reiterated our need to hunger after Him and His Word. He expressed the importance of our dependence on Him. Those words are in stark contrast with how we live today. We snack all day long so we won’t feel any hunger pains. We’ve been rewarded for being self reliant since we could first put food in our own mouth as a baby. To draw close to Christ and to really know Him requires that we unlearn those things, embrace our hunger for Him and our brokenness. He is our only satisfaction and our only true healing. When we get to the places of desperation, we need not despair. We need to trust in Him and we will learn the true meaning of joy and satisfaction.
When I travel to New Orleans, there’s a certain homeless person I like to say hello to. He always makes me smile and he never asks me for anything. He’ll say, “It ain’t gonna cost you nothing to come say hello. I ain’t gonna rob you!” I then walk over and say hello and he puts a smile on my face. Except on a recent trip he called me over and said, “You know I never ask for nothing, but could you go in there and buy me an orange juice and sandwich? I’m about to curl up on my cardboard and I’m hungry.”
When I handed him his dinner, he hugged me and thanked me. He then asked, “You know what I’d change about the world?” My mind began to think of any number of answers. No more homelessness. No more hunger. No more devaluing people. No more selfishness. But before I could decide on an answer, he grabbed my shoulder, looked up at the sky, smiled a big toothless grin, and said, “Absolutely nothing!” He laughed, thanked me again and walked away.
I thought about his answer as I walked back to my hotel. Here’s a man, for whatever reason, is sleeping on a cardboard mat on the streets of downtown New Orleans and is exposed to the elements constantly, and he wouldn’t change a thing. Even though he has absolutely nothing to his name, he has found a way to be content. He’s learned to choose joy instead of bitterness over his situation. It’s a lesson we all could learn.
Paul learned that secret and told us about it in Philippians 4:12. He said, “I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little” (NLT). That secret is choosing the joy of contentment with where God has you. That joy gives us the strength to endure whatever comes our way. It takes us from being a victim of life to a victor over our situation. Don’t try to change your world. Change your attitude. The next verse tells us we can. “For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.”
Throwback Thursday is a feature I’m using to help build some margin into my schedule to pursue other ventures. Each Thursday I’ll be bringing you a previously written devotional that still speaks encouragement to us from God’s Word.
Not long ago, I was sitting at home stressing over everything on my plate. I was trying to figure out how and when I could get everything accomplished. Then the muscles around my eye started to spasm and I remembered that an eye doctor once told me once that that was usually due to stress. When I remembered it was due to stress, I began to think again about all I had to do. My eye began to spasm worse. I remembered I was stressed and started the process again.
I was in a perpetual, downward spiral. Ever been there? They’re hard to get out of. My wife came home and immediately noticed something was wrong. She asked and I began to frantically tell her all that was on my plate. I explained that my eye was driving me nuts too. She stopped me and said, “Why don’t you go outside and get your mind right? Go out there and stop thinking about all this and think about things that make you happy.”
After being out there a few minutes, the spiral started again. I had to push back and enjoy my surroundings. I began to thank God for each of the blessing in my life. I thought of all the things I have that bring me joy and happiness and thanked Him for them. After a while, I had t noticed, but my eye stopped twitching. I began to feel better about things. It reminded me of Proverbs 17:22 that says, “A happy heart is good medicine and a joyful mind causes healing” (AMP).
If you Google “happiness and joy as a medicine”, you will find study and after study that shows the correlation between a positive mood and humor with better health. If you’re like me and end up in these perpetual, downward spirals from time to time, find a way to get your mind on something that brings you joy. It doesn’t take away the problem, but it clears it up, brings healthy thoughts and helps you break the cycle. With a healthy, joyful mind you can solve any problem.