Winter Deer 2

Getting your JOY back!


"I will joy in the God of my salvation."          

Habakkuk 3:18

       I see palm trees that are green and skies that are blue as I lay in my hemlock, on a South Pacific island, sipping lemonade, while my wife fans me with a palm leaf. Then I think to myself what a wonderful world. My joy seems to be full.


       Now switch scenes to my real life, on February 15, 2014 I lay in the ICU of the Kalispell regional Hospital in Montana. Two broken vertebrae, five broken ribs, a broken sternum and a collapsed left lung. They have just finished operating on me and I have two needles in each arm, I'm catheterized, have a tube in my left lung, I'm on oxygen and I'm not aware yet that I am allergic to the morphine given me for pain killer. Circumstances have stolen my joy. I'm absolutely miserable and anxious about my future.


       In my complaining to God, I'm finding no satisfaction. Death would seem preferable to life in this time and place. Then God brings my thoughts to Paul and Silas after they had been whipped and thrown into the dungeon. Their backs are lacerated and their feet are in the stocks above them. God asks me what Paul and Silas were doing. I know they were singing. Impossible I think.


       "Jim is your situation and circumstances any worse than theirs?"


       It really made me think!


       Can I have joy right now?


       Do circumstances need to determine my joy?


       What were Paul and Silas doing that I was not doing? They were focusing on Jesus - not their circumstances.


       Lord are you saying that I have control over my joy?


       "It's not where you are Jim, but where you are with Me that constitutes true joy." David understood this when he said, "In thy presence is fullness of joy." Psalm 16: 11


       Do you mean that I can enter into Your presence at this moment?


       "Yes Jim, My grace is with you if you choose to enter into it."


       But Lord!


       "No buts Jim, you can choose to think upon all my divine interventions in your life over your past 65 years. Write them down, meditate on them and let My presence overrule your present circumstances."


       I followed God's leading and put all my effort into recalling my entire past. The Holy Spirit helped me to see God's intervention in my life when I least deserved it. When I was violating His principles and then when I gave my life to Him, I saw how He had His hand over my life continually. I recorded 35 divine interventions. No doubt He was with me then and He is with me now. His promise is recorded in Hebrews 13: 5,6, "I will NEVER leave you nor forsake you. So you may boldly say: the Lord is my helper."


       That evening I found joy in the God of my salvation, as I allowed Him to be real to me in the present circumstance. How? By keeping Jesus at the Center of my thoughts, no matter what was happening to me, no matter how much pain I had, I could remain on an even keel by focusing on the goodness of God and the good He would bring out of my circumstances. I came to know that my God would see me through this. The present pain and anxiety of my future lost their hold on me. By rehearsing the evidence of God's faithfulness all throughout my life instilled courage and fortitude in my present circumstance. I knew my God would see me through this now.


       Let's look at the Old Testament prophet Habakkuk. He lived during one of Judah's most critical periods. Habakkuk was overwhelmed by the circumstances all about him. He could think of nothing except the iniquity and violence he saw among his people. He was starting to believe that God had removed Himself from the scene. God seemed nowhere to be found. Evil men were in control. At every hand there was iniquity, trouble, plundering, violence, strife, contention, lawlessness and the wicked were surrounding the righteous. The words terrifying and anxious certainly would describe his situation.


       How different is the scene in the last two verses of the book (3:18,19)! All has changed. The prophet is no longer controlled by or even anxious over his circumstances, for his sights have been raised. The circumstances of the kingdom no longer fill his thoughts; his thoughts are now on things above. Habakkuk has fixed his hopes on God, for he realizes that God does take interest in His children. God becomes the SOURCE of the prophet's strength and joy. Habakkuk discovers that amidst these dire circumstances he can gain higher ground. Just listen to his closing words, "I will REJOICE in the Lord, I will JOY in the God of my salvation. The Lord God is my strength; He will make my feet like deer's feet, and He will make me to walk upon my high places."


       Although everything is wrong in Habakkuk's external world, he is leaping for joy over his fellowship with God! The prophet finds the source of his joy in God and not in his circumstances. He has gone from complaining to confidence, from doubt to trust, from man to God, from the valley to the high hills!


       God's word teaches us that it is possible to rise above our circumstances. Whether that is sickness, death of a loved one, and accident such as mine, the wrongness of others towards us, financial problems, even bankruptcy, whatever it is we can find our joy in them, by focusing on our God who is sovereign over all and always has the final word.


       We are not to deny our problems, nor treat them lightly; instead, we are to find God's sufficiency in the midst of our trials and see Him as our COMFORT. If we do, we can find an abiding JOY that even disaster on a huge scale, cannot steal from us because by faith we dare to, "enter into the JOY of our Lord." Matt 25:23


       I think of the infinite words by Horatio Spafford as he stood on the deck of the ocean liner and was told that this was the spot where his loved ones had drowned. From the depths of his soul he sang out to the Lord, "What ever my lot, Thou has taught me to say, It is well, it is well with my soul!"


       That night in ICU I allowed my joy to be stolen from me, but by cooperating with the grace of God, COMFORT came to me as I consented to put my hope in the Lord and His future for me and not in my dire circumstances.


       Make the decision today, to get your JOY back! Decide that you are going to look beyond you circumstances and discover what God will do on your behalf and live in the good that he will bring out of the evil. Genesis 50:20


Living in His strength,


Jim & Sally Hohnberger
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