Making Way For Joy

Steve Arterburn

Most men tend to stuff.  Often, we trade our grief or sorrow for anger.  But in order to release the past into God’s hands, you must fully encounter your grief, and you must be willing to forgive yourself and others for the pain that’s occurred.  

This isn’t easy. But we can learn from some people who went before us.  Many of the Jewish exiles who returned to Jerusalem after captivity in Babylon had forgotten the laws of God.  During the exile, they hadn’t been taught his laws, so, naturally, they hadn’t practiced them.  After rebuilding the city wall and the Temple, the priests gathered the people together to read the Book of the Law.  The people were overwhelmed with grief and began sobbing because their lives in no way measured up.  But the priests said to them:

‘Today is a sacred day before the Lord your God’Go and celebrate with a feast of choice foods and sweet drinks, and share gifts of food with people who have nothing prepared.  This is a sacred day before our Lord.  Don’t be dejected and sad, for the joy of the Lord is your strength’ (Nehemiah 8:9-10).

The process of releasing the past requires grief and forgiveness.  Then you are given the ‘joy of the Lord’ as your strength.  This joy comes from recognizing, even celebrating, God’s ability to set you free from the past, and in doing so, a new way of life.

Malachi’s Message

Steve Arterburn

The prophet Malachi brought a message of hope to a nation that knew repeated failure.  After being restored to their homeland, the Jews had forgotten the one who had delivered them.  We often make the same kind of mistake.  As soon as we overcome our pressing problems, we forget the one who delivered us from them’God.  Without a continued relationship with God, our hope of sustaining spiritual growth is slim at best.  You and I need to keep our eyes on God, the source and means for our continued spiritual growth.

God’s love to the people of Jerusalem and to us cannot be explained.  God knows the depth of your sin; he knows how weak you are; yet he still loves you.  There is nothing that you can do to lose this love that you never deserved in the first place.  God’s love has the power to heal all the broken places in your life.  Your failures, setbacks, and defenses cannot stop God from wanting to heal you.  This fact should give you hope, no matter how terrible your failures in the past.  He already knows about the anger, betrayal, addiction, lies’you’re not going to surprise him.  But it’s time you confess and seek his will for your life.

Are you willing to turn to him for healing and forgiveness?  He was patient with the people of Israel for hundreds of years, in spite of their sin.  In his grace, God patiently waits for you as well.  

Naaman

Steve Arterburn

Situations that are out of your control will show whether you’re operating with pride and self-sufficiency or with humility and dependence on God.  If you’re willing to humbly depend on God and recognize you inability to handle everything on your own, you’ll see the power of God bring great changes in your life.  

The experience of a man named Naaman illustrates how this is true.  Naaman was a powerful military and political figure, a man of wealth, position, and power.  He also had leprosy, an incurable disease that would slowly destroy his body.  Lepers were made outcasts from their families and society.  Ultimately, they faced a slow, painful, and disgraceful death.

But Naaman heard that there was a prophet in Israel who could heal him.  He found the prophet and was told that in order to be healed he needed to dip himself seven times in the Jordan River.  He went away outraged, having expected his power and money to buy him an instant and easy cure.  In the end, however, he acknowledged that this situation was beyond his control.  Humility was the key that caused Naaman to surrender to God, follow his instructions, and receive the healing that only God could give him.  

Humility should not be confused with humiliation.  God doesn’t allow you to face situations beyond your control in order to humiliate you.  He does so to draw you to himself and lead you to healing and spiritual renewal.