In the darkest time of my life, I was so upset and angry I couldn’t eat or sleep for days. In the night, I would lay down, but I couldn’t sleep. As tears rolled down my face, I began to sing a couple of songs I learned as a kid. The first one was “The Joy of the Lord is My Strength,” and the other one was “Rejoice in the Lord Always”. As depression and bitterness we’re trying to make theirselves at home in my mind, I could only combat them with these songs. I knew that I was in a bad situation and that adding in those two things would make things worse. I tried to remember that God knew what I was going through, even if He wasn’t stopping it, and that joy would give me strength to endure anything.
When I was younger, someone once told me that there’s a difference between happiness and joy. Happiness is based on circumstances so it comes and goes based on my condition. Joy is internal and not based on any external situation. It comes from understanding that no matter what my condition is, I’m still loved by Jesus and there is nothing that can separate me from it. When you learn to look at your life through the lens of Jesus’ love rather than your current circumstances, you learn to have a joy that gives you strength no matter what you’re going through.
Psalm 31:7 says, “I will be glad and rejoice because of your constant love. You see my suffering; you know my trouble” (GNT). God is very much aware of your pain, your suffering, your stressful situation or whatever you’re facing, and He knows how to work it our for your good. Even though you can’t see how anything good can come from it right now, keep trusting in His plan and resting in His love. Let joy spring up from within you and turn the ashes of what used to be, or what could have been, into fertile soil for God to do something new and unexpected. His joy will strengthen you and His love will sustain you through whatever comes your way. Keep trusting in His plan.
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.
Have you ever noticed that some of the most trying times in your life have been the most humbling? I can think of multiple times in my life where I was going through some difficult things and I couldn’t even look up. What was going on inside was affecting my outside. The thing that burdened my mind felt like a giant weight on my back. I shuffled around and often didn’t even feel like I had the strength to get up and face the day. By contrast, when I’m carefree, I’m upright, looking around, smiling and saying hello to everyone I meet. There are two different postures here that my body takes based on what’s going on inside. In the good times it’s easy to sing and enjoy life, but I’ve learned that in the most difficult seasons, I need to sing praises even more. Singing praise songs shifts my internal perspective from the weight I’m under to my need for the One who can help me through it. My focus is no longer on my problems, but on the One who has the solution. Praise reminds me that when I can’t, God can.
I love that the stories of David in the Bible share both his triumphs and his pains. His psalms reflect that too. He didn’t just write them when things were going to plan and when he was on top of the world. Many were written in times of desperation. In each of them, he continued to pour his heart out to God knowing He was the only one He trusted to help him. The psalms he left behind for us to read are great prayers, songs and reminders to look to God in times of plenty and in times of pain. I go to them pretty often because I know that they often give me words for the way I’m feeling, they give me prayers when I don’t know how to pray in those seasons and they give me encouragement as they remind me to put my hope in God. Even when we feel abandoned under our heavy load, the psalms remind us that God has not forgotten us and is our strength in time of need.
One such psalm I love in the last one that David wrote which is a psalm of praise and full of reminders. Psalm 145:14 reminds us, “The LORD helps the fallen and lifts those bent beneath their loads” (NLT). There is help for us when we’ve fallen down under our heavy load and feel like we should just stay down. God is there with an outstretched hand ready to lift us up. He sends people to pray for us, to encourage us and to help carry the load. However, it always requires us to reach out and take His hand and accept the help He sends. It can be quite humbling at times to admit we need help, or to accept that we can’t do it on our own. In those times I remind myself not to let my pride stand in the way of my progress and growth. I’ve learned that many times my struggles are an attempt to remind me to trust in God rather than my own strength. It’s a way for me to learn to accept help rather than to give it. Receiving help is as much an act of obedience as giving it. Don’t let pride stand in your way during those times.
When I go grocery shopping, it’s usually for just a few things so I like to use the hand held baskets. My six year old son likes to accompany me on these trips. He always asks, “Can I carry the basket?” The basket is fine for him to carry until I begin to put things in it. Every item we pick up weighs the basket more. When I see him struggling with the weight of it, I ask for it. He often refuses. He struggles to carry it, but still he insists. Sometimes he ends up pushing it along the floor because he doesn’t want to give it up.
Even though life would be easier for both of us if he let me carry it, he keeps going until he’s wore out. I wonder if that’s how it is between us and God when we carry around burdens. God is asking us to release them to Him, but we keep insisting we can do it. We struggle with the weight of it, but still we push on. God asks us to hand it to Him, but we’d rather struggle pushing it than to hand it off. Life would be easier for both of us if we’d just give it up.
In Psalm 55:22, David wrote, “Cast your burden on the Lord [releasing the weight of it] and He will sustain you” (AMPC). Every burden, that’s not from God, that we pick up weighs us down. We know from Matthew 11:30 that the Lord’s burden is light. The burdens He places on our hearts won’t be too heavy for us. He’s even willing to make an exchange with us. He’ll give us His burdens if we will give ours to Him, but that takes us releasing them.
I like the second part of that verse. The word “sustain” means to hold up much like a gable holds up a roof. When we give up our burdens to Him, He holds us up so we don’t cave in. The things we think are keeping us going are the things that are weighing us down. It’s time we heard the Father’s voice and obeyed. Were not strong enough to carry the basket of burdens. Release it to Him and walk in the freedom He offers. He has His hand out waiting for you to hand it to Him.
Recently, as I returned from a trip, my son wanted to help take my suitcase to my room. He went to grab my suitcase and computer bag, which were stacked on each other. He struggled for a minute trying to move it. Then, with a loud crashing sound, he fell with it. I walked over, helped him up, and removed the computer bag. My wife told him, “Baby, that’s too heavy for you. Don’t try to do that again. You’ll get hurt.” He was sad, but he walked away from them. He realized that as much as he wanted to move them, they weren’t made for him.
That’s the perfect example of what happens when we try to carry burdens that aren’t ours or that aren’t given to us by God. We struggle with them. We try to walk with them. Then ultimately, we come crashing down. We then try to pick them back up to try again. For many of us, this is the rut we get stuck in. Pick up, struggle, fall, repeat. But God is telling you, “That’s too heavy for you. Don’t try to carry that load. You’ll get hurt.”
I’m not sure why we try over and over to help God with burdens that aren’t ours. It doesn’t impress Him that we are trying to carry a burden He didn’t give us. Yet we think that if no one else carries it, someone has to, and that someone might as well be you. Let me set you free today. You weren’t meant to carry burdens that God didn’t give you. Set those down, and walk away. It doesn’t matter that no one else is carrying it. If God didn’t give it to you, it’s not yours to carry.
In Matthew 11:28-30, Jesus told us, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light” (NLT). If you find yourself tired and weary all the time, give that burden to God, and pick up the burden He has for you. It’s the only way you’ll find rest, contentment, and purpose.