Saturday, June 18, 2016

Insert happy face here.

Sometimes you don't know how meaningful an item is to you until you lose it, or break it. Like the thing I broke the other day. I don't even want to say what it is, it's so trivial, but when I broke it, my day suddenly became sad (insert sad face here). And the annoying thing is that it happened in the middle of a time that I had set aside to seek God, and then I got distracted by this thing – the thing that I broke (insert sad face here). Even the next day, I sat down to spend time with God again, and I noticed the broken item (because I still had it) and it made me feel sad again (insert another sad face here). And that got me thinking...

How important is this thing to me? And for that matter, how important is any other thing to me? When I felt the pang of sadness the second day, I knew I had to deal with it once and for all, and I began praising God for the many things that really matter, like knowing Him, and for all the benefits of knowing Him, such as what David lists in Psalm 103. I also made sure that I told God how low I wanted this broken item to be on my List-of-Things-I-Value. In other words it shouldn't matter that it has a small crack in it. There are more important things to dwell on!

Then it occurred to me that I had recently seen an online list of books on a specific subject that had been rated from best to, well... not best. There were three sections to the list. First, it had the books that had been deemed worthy of a numerical rating. Then it carried on with books that were worth including but hadn't seemed good enough for a numerical rating. And then it mentioned books that weren't officially included in the list but were noted at the bottom. And, of course, there must be other books on this subject that weren't even mentioned (Sorry; thanks for playing!). If I had such a list of all the best things in my life, I'm afraid the item that I broke the other day wouldn't make the list! Not even a note about it at the bottom. And yet breaking it made me sad for two days. How shallow is that?!

Then today as I was reading Psalm 137 in my Bible, I came across this phrase: "May my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth [in song] if I do not remember you, if I do not exalt Jerusalem above my chief joy!" (Psalm 137:6). Craig Boyles writes, "We must not misunderstand this passionate attachment to Jerusalem as a mere reflection of cultural identity or nostalgia. In the context of the Songs of Zion, Jerusalem had been where Israel met with God." Jerusalem stood for covenant with God, the presence of God, the place to worship God; it represented God's dwelling place, His kingship, His atonement, His forgiveness – and every "benefit" David encouraged God's people to remember (see Psalm 103:2ff)! And yet as I had gathered myself to enjoy my King in my own place of worship, some petty item that hadn't even made my list of things I value in life threatened to make me sad. In other words, it tried to make itself "my chief joy" so as to compete with my joy of meeting with Jesus.

And how often does that happen? Probably more often than we'd like. How often do we allow less important things – things that may seem super important at the time, and may have even caught us by surprise – crowd our hearts, seeking to make themselves so important that they distract us from our time with God and diminish our joy in Him? Such things are not meant to become our "chief joys" placed high on the list of things we value. The top of such a list should be reserved only for such things that can never be broken and never be taken away from us: the love of God, the faithfulness of God, the promises of God, and so much more! 

So if that ever happens to you – if something of little or lesser importance ends up robbing you of time with the God you love and of the joy He wants to give you – do something about it! Forbid it from becoming a "chief joy" by putting it where it belongs on (or off) your List-of-Things-You-Value, remind your soul that God is your highest joy, and ask God to insert a happy face where the joy of the Lord belongs in your heart! He'll do it. He promises.

"You will make known to me the path of life;
In Your presence is fullness of joy;
In Your right hand there are pleasures forever!"
Psalm 16:11

© 2016 by Ken Peters

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