How To Take Off The Happy Face And Still Have Joy

The memorial service was coming to a close.  Several ladies began carrying the food from the kitchen out to the waiting tables while the final song was playing.  

Then it happened.  

Hearing her deceased daughter’s favorite song playing was too much.  

With her knees beginning to buckle, she placed the tray of food on the table and moved as quickly as she could through the kitchen door and out the back.  

She tried desperately to hold back the tears while profusely apologizing for making such a “scene.”  The ladies desiring to console her told her it was okay.  Through the sobs, she questioned, “Why after 21 years, can I not control myself when I hear that song?”

Why do we feel the pressing need to put on our happy face when we are hurting?  

Why do we walk around with a forced smile covering over our grief, sorrow, and hurt?

Why do we seek to cover even our “normal” griefs of life such as a friend misunderstanding us, a child’s behavior causing embarrassment, our family finances being inadequate or the flu knowing us down (Vroegop), with an “I’m okay” attitude instead of confessing our true feelings?  

Two things prevent us from embracing the spiritual gift of lamenting and hinder receiving the gift of joy during our pain.

Pride

We are prideful people.  To cry is to admit weakness.  To weep is to acknowledge that something in our life is not right.  To mourn tells the world we are broken and we don’t like to feel broken.

But how do we heal or carry one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2) if we are not real with one another?  We can’t honestly know how to minister to someone if we do not know what is going on in their life.  

It is especially hard for people in the Christian world to be real with one another.  People place such high standards on believer’s that they forget that we are all in the process of becoming more like Christ; not that we have already arrived!

So when we do muster up enough courage to become vulnerable, the response is usually not one of comfort but one of judgment.  

Thus the second barrier that prevents us from embracing the lamenting process and experiencing real joy instead of masking our sorrow with a happy face is our past hurt.  

Past Hurt

Everyone has had their heart broken at some time in their life.  Whether it be through the loss of a loved one or the backstabbing of a friend, hearts are tender and easily hurt.

It is hard to understand why God allows pain and suffering, and yet, in His grace, He meets us in our pain and helps us through.  Mark Vroegop, in his book, Dark Clouds Deep Mercy, states:

The book of Lamentations, “shows us that God’s sovereignty and his reign are not negated by suffering.  God is still in control, even through loss…Even when we can’t imagine how God might use hard circumstances in our lives, we can still believe he’s in control.”  

So if God is in control even in the midst of our pain, then we no longer have to be concerned about our happy face.  

We can be real before God and others and in so doing receive His gift of JOY.

Joy In The Pain

Our happy face can be real even in the midst of the pain.   Not a forced happy face, but one that knows and has experienced the joy of toiling and coming through sorrow.  

A face full of joy can only happen if we look to the Lord and not to self or others.

I sought the Lord, and He answered me and delivered me from all my fears.  Those who look to Him are radiant with joy; their faces will never be ashamed. Psalm 34:4-5

Notice a couple of encouraging things from the above verse.

First, when we look to the Lord in our pain, He is faithful to answer us as well as deliver us from all fears.  How much of the pain we experience is a direct result of our fear?  God tells us He will deliver us from all the fears when we look to Him.  

In so doing we our faces will no longer be marked with a mask that covers over our fear, hurt, and pain.  Instead, our faces will glow with radiant joy as one who has been in the presence of the Father.  

Not only that, but we will never have to feel ashamed of what our faces reveal.  We no longer have to cover them up.  Because even when our face is filled with tears of pain and sorrow, our face will still have joy in the midst of it all.  

This reassurance is stated over and over again by the apostle Paul who knew much suffering and pain.  To Timothy, he writes:

And that is why I suffer these things.  But I am not ashamed, because I know the One I have believed in and am persuaded that He is able to guard what has been entrusted to me until that day.  2 Timothy 1:12 

When you have a God who guards and protects all you have given to Him, then you do not have to be ashamed and can endure the pain and heartache that comes your way.  

Paul encourages the church at Corinth not to give up when hard things arrive.

Therefore we do not give up.  Even though our outer person is being destroyed, our inner person is being renewed day by day.  For our momentary light affliction is producing for us an absolutely incomparable eternal weight of glory.  So we do not focus on what is seen, but on what is unseen.  For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.  2 Corinthians 4:16-18

Conclusion

There she was ministering to another family who had lost a loved one when she was slammed with her grief.  

She should have felt comfortable in her tears, but instead kept apologizing over and over and over again. 

Fellow believers, we need to take off the happy faces and put away our pride.  We need to willingly put our hearts out and become real and vulnerable with one another.  

How else will the world be able to know we serve a God of comfort if we never walk with our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ during their pain and suffering?  

Mark Vroegop challenges us to consider: “what would happen if more Christians confidently walked into the darkest moments of life and guided people in talking to God about their pain.

Take some time today to go before the Lord with your hurt and pain.  Cast aside, your pride and unashamedly come to Him with your tears.

Embrace the gift of joy in the midst of pain and see the freedom that comes through open lament before God and others.  

You Yourself have recorded my wanderings.  Put my tears in Your bottle.  Are they not in Your records? Psalm 56:8

Additional Resources:

If We’re Honest by Francesca Battistelli (Song)

Dark Clouds, Deep Mercy by Mark Vroegop (Book)

Just A Spoonful Of God’s Word

“Come take your medicine.”

Remember those words called out to you in the middle of the most inconvenient time as a child?

Who likes to take medicine?  Even if it doesn’t taste bad, no one wants to take it.  It is inconvenient and reminds us that something is wrong.

So why does the mom continue to tell the child to take their medicine?  They know it is going to be what makes them better.

As a pastor’s wife, I am approached often with various situations and circumstances needing advice.  After listening and clarifying the needs, my most often the response is: 

How is your time in the Word?

Now before you turn away and write me off as being legalistic, hear me out.

I don’t ask this question because I am trying to judge or because reading God’s Word is a “have to” for a Christian.

The reason I ask is that it has been proven over and over again in believers lives including my own that the solution to whatever problem or situation being discussed can be answered in God’s Word.  

When I say answered, I mean that God reveals Himself to His child through the reading of His Word.  In the revealing, the child of God becomes aware of how the situation or problem should be handled.

The enemy knows this which is why it is such a struggle for us to read God’s Word consistently.  But there is a way.  

So pull up the sugar jar and some spoons and let’s take a look at four ways to get time in God’s Word.

Spoon 1: Ask For Prayer

Reading God’s Word is nothing to take lightly.  There is a battle going on in the spiritual world to keep you from learning the truth.  Satan knows that if he can keep you from reading God’s Word, then he can continue to feed you lies.

Sanctify them by the truth; Your Word is truth. John 17:17

So the best way to combat the enemy is to ask others to pray for you.  Specifically, ask them to pray that you would have regular time reading God’s Word even if it is just 10 minutes a day.  Start there!!

Spoon 2: Have a plan

“What is your plan for the day?”  

My husband hates this question.  But as a planner, I can’t help but ask it.

The truth is if you don’t have a plan, then the chances of you going anywhere or getting anything accomplished are slim.

It is the same way with reading God’s Word.  A lot of people will tell me they open up the Bible and wherever it falls is where they read.  This is fine on occasion but to do it every day is not wise.

Choosing a Bible reading plan is critical in helping you stay consistently reading God’s Word.  It not only holds you accountable but also allows God to speak to you through the whole counsel of His Word over a period of time.

All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.  2 Timothy 3:16-17

There are tons of Bible reading apps and plans, but I would encourage you to pick up your hard copy of the Bible and begin reading in a book of the Bible until you have completed it.  

Holding God’s Word in your hand instead of your phone also keeps you on task and accountable for completing your reading.  

Spoon 3: Take the Medicine, Read!!

With your friends praying and your Bible reading plan is chosen, the next spoonful to swallow is reading God’s Word!!

First, set the alarm on our phone so that you are not worried about running late.  

Next, begin your time with a short prayer asking God to help you not to be distracted and for understanding what you are about to read.  Remember reading God’s Word is a spiritual battle so start with praying against the to-do-list that wants to pop in your head as you read.

Read!  Read!  Read!

Read until your alarm goes off!!

Spoon 4: Record Your Thoughts

At the end of each reading time, jot down a few of the thoughts or insights God has given you from the reading.  It can be as straightforward or as elaborate as you have time for, but writing down at least one take away, will help keep it in your mind throughout the day.  

Finally, close with a prayer of thanksgiving for God’s faithfulness in helping you to read His Word.

Conclusion

Reading God’s Word is the spoonful of sugar that helps us through each day.  

Whether it be the phone call we receive with bad news, the toilet overflowing, the burnt toast, or merely the deadline that has to be met, just a spoonful of God’s Word makes the day’s struggles, demands, and sorrows, fade away into the light of God’s glory and grace. 

Don’t waste another minute.  

Go take your medicine and see how much better you begin to feel.

 

 

 

4 Things Jesus Teaches Mothers

Small hands, feet, soft skin, coos, and bright eyes captivate every part of you.  As you hold that little one in the cradle of your arms, you are not thinking about the next 18 years and what will happen throughout that time nor how fast it will flash by.  

In honor of Mother’s Day, let us take a look at four ways Jesus teaches mothers in each season of motherhood.

Jesus Teaches Mothers How To Love, Care, & Treasure The Moments

The circumstances surrounding the birth of Christ were anything but ordinary.  Christ’s birth brought new life into Mary and Joseph’s family.  As everyone scurried around here and there proclaiming the birth of baby Jesus, Mary does something different.  

They hurried off and found both Mary and Joseph, and the baby who was lying in the feeding trough.  After seeing them, they reported the message they were told about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.  But Mary was treasuring up all these things in her heart and meditating on them.  Luke 2:16-19

One look at the baby Jesus must have brought a flood of emotions into Mary’s heart.  While I’m sure there was a multitude of things needing to be done, Jesus helped Mary to realize the most significant thing she needed at the moment was to love and care for God’s Son and to treasure every moment of it.  
Taking time to pause is hard to do with a new baby, and if you have multiple children, the responsibilities do not lessen.  The infant and early childhood years are fast and furious as the child develops physically as well as mentally.  

It is a hard and busy season for a young mother, but one glance at baby pictures takes you right back to those precious moments with your child.  Just as Jesus carried Mary through those early years of childhood, so He too carries the young mom.  

When she thinks she can’t cook another meal, change another diaper, clean up another mess, or wash another load of clothes, Jesus reminds her to love, care, and treasure these precious moments.  

Jesus Teaches Mothers How To Train And Encourage

As Christ began the transition from childhood to early adulthood, it becomes apparent that Mary needs to make some adjustments in her parenting too.  Controlling and overseeing every activity and event would no longer be necessary.

When they did not find Him, they returned to Jerusalem to search for Him.  After three days, they found Him in the temple complex sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions.  And all those who heard Him were astounded at His understanding and His answers.  

When His parents saw Him, they were astonished, and His mother said to Him, “Son, why have You treated us like this?  Your father and I have been anxiously searching for You.”  

“Why were you searching for Me?”  He asked them.  “Didn’t you know that I had to be in My Father’s house?”  

But they did not understand what He said to them.

Then He went down with them and came to Nazareth and was obedient to them.  His mother kept all these things in her heart.  And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and with people.  Luke 2:48-52

Jesus respectfully teaches His mother through the transition from boy to adulthood that God is faithful to guide and direct her child.  Jesus had to help His mother and father see that God did have a call on His life and that He would be fulfilling that calling.  

While Mary continues to help train Jesus in how to grow in wisdom, stature, and favor with God and with people, so mothers in this season of life must do the same.  Children are discovering more of who they are, what they like and don’t like, what they are good at, and who they want to be around.  

It is during this stage that moms are often called to encourage the child during failures and disappointments.  To remind the child that life does not end because someone doesn’t like you or you don’t make the cut for the team.  Instead, the gentle reminder that they are loved, cared for, and valued by God becomes crucial.

When rushing from one event to another, staying up late listening to the latest drama in the school, or making enough food to feed an army, Jesus reminds the mother to continue training and encouraging. 

Jesus Teaches Mothers How To Move From Biological Relationship To Spiritual

As Jesus entered into His earthly ministry and continued to fulfill God’s plan for His life, Mary’s relationship with her Son changes once again.  While she is forever His biological mother, her relationship to Christ spiritually changes.  She is no longer His mother but part of a greater family of brothers and sisters in Christ.  

Then His mother and His brothers came, and standing outside, they sent word to Him and called Him.  A crowd was sitting around Him and told Him, “Look, Your mother, Your brother, and Your sisters are outside asking for You.”

He replied to them, “Who are My mother and My brothers?”  

And looking about at those who were sitting in a circle around Him, He said, “Here are My mother and My brothers!  Whoever does the will of God is My brother and sister and mother.”  Mark 3:31-35

Transitions are hard.  When changes involve the relationship between the tiny baby you held in your arms and the one now grown, it is doubly hard.  No one ever truly wants to let go of anything let alone anyone.  Our nature is to cling and hold on to what we love. 

In the middle of His ministry, Jesus teaches Mary that her relationship with Him has now moved to one that is larger than just biological.  She is part of the larger family of Christ, and in the next season, it will be even more evident.

By embracing and understanding this transition, a mother’s heart can rest in the faithfulness of God’s will and enjoy the spiritual relationship she now has with her child as a sister in Christ.  

When it is time to leave the child at college, give their hand in marriage, or celebrate their first “real” job, Jesus reminds the mother to embrace the eternal spiritual relationship.

Jesus Teaches Mothers He Is The Comforter

Jesus’ life on earth does not come to an end before His mother dies.  I am sure those who have lost a child through miscarriage, death, or infertility, can relate to the grief and pain Mary must have been feeling as she watched her Son hanging on the cross.

Standing by the cross of Jesus were His mother, His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.  When Jesus saw His mother and the disciple He loved standing there, He said to His mother, “Woman, here is your son.”  Then He said to the disciple, “Here is your mother.”  And from that hour the disciple took her into his home.  John 19:25-27

Even during this pain, grief, and sorrow, Jesus teaches His mother that He will continue to protect, provide, and care for her.  When things seem incomprehensible, Christ encourages Mary to remember that God is good and the victory is the Lord’s.  

When in the midst of grief and sorrow, Jesus reminds mothers He is the Comforter and Provider.  

Conclusion

Take some time this Mother’s Day to thank God for your season of life.  

Pray for the biological and spiritual mothers and grandmothers around you.  

Join the Lord in ministering to them in whatever season of motherhood they are enjoying.

Allow Jesus to teach you in your season of motherhood.