Sometimes I have bad days. I bet you do too. Sunday started off to be bad day. It began when I woke up. Usually, the first thing I do when I open my eyes is say, “Thank you, Jesus.” When I do, I’m thanking him first for waking my up. I’m thanking him for protecting me through the night. I’m thanking him for the sleep I got, in spite of the pain in my shoulders. That’s what my first of the day “Thank You, Jesus”, means. Sunday morning I didn’t say it with an zip or enthusiasm. It took some effort. I recognized that right off so I said to Jesus, “Jesus, I really do mean it even though it doesn’t sound like it”. When I got out of bed my body didn’t feel like it. My mind didn’t feel like. My attitude certainly didn’t feel like it. I was just going through the motions. You ever been there?
Church attendance later in the morning became optional. I was arguing with myself. “You can stay home and worship God. You can devote the whole day to that. It’ll be okay this time.” “Oh come on. Suck it up. You’ll feel better once you get going, get loosened up. Eat breakfast. Read the devotionals. By the time you get to Oswald Chambers if you aren’t revved up by that time, reading “My Utmost for HIs Highest” will certainly get you there. If not, praying afterward certainly will. Come on. Let’s go.” One by one, I began checking things off the list.
Nothing was working. Nothing worked. After all this was done, there was still time to get ready in time to go to church. I needed to kill some more time. I had put off doing my exercises, any of them, for several days. I knew it was a bad thing to do because my shoulders were really hurting more and more every passing day. Today, I made myself exercise, more to kill time than for the good they would do me. Okay, so I exercised. Actually loosening up my shoulders made them feel better. Okay, there was still enough time, so I said I’d make a final decision after I took a shower. So, I did. Slowly, I noticed my will was taking over and I was willing myself to continue.
I took my shower, shaved, brushed my teeth, trimmed my eyebrows, trimmed my toenails. Yep, I still had time. I opened the closet door and began collecting my Sunday go-to-meeting clothes. I finished dressing, collecting my Bible, identifying my offering, checking everything twice and still waited a few minutes before dragging myself out the door. I still did not have a good attitude and wasn’t looking forward to meeting and greeting anyone. I wanted to turn around and go back in the house. I didn’t because my will was in charge now. Just like the exercises done for the wrong reasons were still good for my shoulders, I knew going to church would be good for my spirit. I made a commitment to serve Jesus and my will was taking me down that path.
Going Through the Motions
I was pretty much numb driving the familiar streets on the way to church. My efforts to perk up were not being successful. I waited at the traffic lights patiently. I blessed the rude and thoughtless drivers I encountered along the way. I made all the right turns, even the left turn into the parking lot. I saw the greeter waiting for me just inside the glass door. Hmm. I tried to to put a sincere smile on my face. I think it fooled him, anyway. I couldn’t fool myself though. I could have sat on an empty pew. Instead I chose a spot next to a young mother holding her infant in her lap. During the greeting time I left the pew and wandered up and down the aisle, smiling, greeting, and shaking hands. I sang the songs as best I could. I bowed my head during the prayers. I listened to the message delivered my Brother Daniel. It was a good message. The service over, I deposited my offering in the box at the back, shook Brother Daniel’s hand, told him it was a good message, and was one of the very first out the door. But then things began to change. The gloom was beginning to lift. My steps became lighter as I crossed the street and entered the parking lot. By the time I reached FJ, joy had begun to take over. Sitting in the driver’s seat, seat belt fastened, ready to go, I bowed my head and prayed. This time I prayed with real gratitude a prayer of thanksgiving; thankfulness for his faithfulness and unfailing love began to flow. Finishing, I pulled out of the parking lot with a new attitude for the day. I traveled the same streets. Waited at the same lights. Encountered even more mindless drivers than before. This time was different though. This time I did so with joy in my heart and praise on my lips. I did devote the rest of the day to worshiping and praising God. By the time the day ended, I could honestly say it was one of the most joyful days I’d had in quite some time. When I went to bed that night, I told God how great a day it had been, giving him all the honor and glory.
Joy is a Choice
Perhaps you’ve heard the old cliche spewed out a someone who is in the gloom, “You can get glad in the same shoes you got sad in!” Or how about this one, “Happiness is a choice.” Well, they really are true. But gladness and happiness are related to circumstances that make most people glad and/or happy. What about those times when the circumstances would make anyone not happy? What about death of someone dear, fired from your job, rent you can’t pay, not enough food to feed the hungry mouths, severe physical pain? How about those times. How can you be happy during those times? You can’t. But what you can be is joyful. You can have joy: real joy. You see, joy is not the same as happiness. Happiness depends on pleasant circumstances. Joy doesn’t. In fact joy is more closely related to the unpleasant circumstances in our lives. Joy comes from a trusting, faithful, loving relationship with God. It’s based on knowing God has unfailing love for you and has your best interests embedded deeply in his heart’s desire for you. Read the four short chapters of Philippians. It’s a letter Paul wrote during a time in his life when he was chained 24/7 to a Roman Praetorian Guard. Listen to the joy he experienced at this tough time in his life.
I’d like to end this today by sharing a scripture passage that brings me great comfort every day.
Psalm 23 (NLT)
The Lord is my shepherd;
I have all that I need.
He lets me rest in green meadows;
He leads me beside peaceful streams.
He renews my strength.
He guides me along right paths,
bringing honor to his name.
Even when I walk through the darkest valley,
I will not be afraid,
for you are close beside me.
Your rod and you staff
protect and comfort me.
You prepare a feast for me
in the presence of my enemies.
You honor me by anointing my head with oil.
My cup overflows with blessings.
Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me
all the days of my life,
and I will live in the house of the Lord