Don’t Focus on the Hard

choose-joy

 

We hadn’t spoken in a while.

The Christmas rush, the holiday travel, the sinus infections.

We reconnect on a Wednesday afternoon. The phone rings. My six year old answers and exclaims, “Mama, it is Ms. Betty!” Ms. Betty is a friend from our ministry at the Castaway Motel. I now call her part of our family. My multi-tasking-self holds the phone in one hand while making mac and cheese and PB&J’s in the other. In this moment, my mind floods with the insignificant…Christmas returns, new brake pads, and puberty talks. Well I suppose the puberty talks are significant…but hunny that’s for another day.

Ms. Betty is a story teller and this day is no exception. I cut off crust and make butterfly shaped sandwiches and she begins. She just moved from a run-down motel into a modest apartment for seniors. She is now removed from the prostitution and drugs that plagued the residents, her neighbors. This is a better life for her, a safer one.

She saves money and purchases a queen mattress and box springs at the Salvation Army. The nice man brings the mattress to the third floor and places it where it needs to go. Finally, her apartment is comfortably furnished just in time for Christmas.

T’was the night before Christmas or so the poem goes, not a creature is stirring not even a bedbug? Ahem, yes the mattress and all surrounding furniture begins to stir with bedbugs. This is one thing I’ve grown accustom to in ministry. Going with Christ to the least of these in Reno usually means going to the bedbug infested places too.

Bless her heart.

She saves.

She budgets.

She spends wisely. And instead of a wink from jolly Old Saint Nick she gets a bite from the mattress critters. Lord have mercy!

But what she says next makes me spill my macaroni. Even though I cannot see her face, I know it’s smiling. She exclaims with contentment, “The Lord is with me. I am blessed with what He has given me. This may be inconvenient but God will use this to make me stronger.” She puts to death her desire for meager comfort, picks up her cross, and chases the heels of Jesus.

I gulp and pause and I know. She has the New Testament contentment and joy Paul talks about. A sincere joy despite her circumstance. The kind of joy and satisfaction in the supremacy of Christ that should be tucked inside the heart of every believer.

Delight yourself in the Lord” (Ps. 37:4); “Serve the Lord with gladness” (Ps. 100:2); “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!” (Phil. 4:4).

Ms. Betty clings to the feet of Jesus with gladness and nothing distracts her… not even the mud pies. Once again the kitchen table turns and she minsters to me. I am so amazed at her faith, her endurance, and her courage.

God reminds me of something as a new year commences. The way is hard that leads to life. But we must be careful of our emphasis. The focus is not on the “hard” but on the “life.” The eternal (John 3:16), abundant (John 10:10), exceedingly joyful (Psalm 43:4) and forever pleasurable (Psalm 16:11) life is so worth the fight that we will someday look back at the very worst, darkest, horrible battles and see them as “light and momentary” (2 Corinthians 4:17), Piper.

Lord, awaken my joyful heart. Be magnified in my attitude. Like Ms. Betty, please help me to find joy in you especially when days flurry with disappointment. Help me to be so satisfied in you that I can call death gain. In the precious name of the resurrected Christ I pray, Amen.

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