Sometimes life deals us some hard blows. Someone dies, leaves, or gets a disheartening diagnosis. A trusted friend betrays your trust. You lose your job due to a downturn in our economy. Your car breaks down and you’re not sure how to pay for the repair. Your child is in some rough training ground. You didn’t get that promotion. Life is just not fun sometimes. Or is it? As I stated last week, it can be FUN depending on how we look at it!
God has taught me to reframe anything that comes my way, even the really tough stuff that I have no control over. Again, FUN is Finding Upgrades Now. Let’s be realistic. Many of us have turned to God in such circumstances because we realized we cannot affect the needed change. Hard, uncontrollable things actually become our connecting point with the Holy Spirit giving us access to what God wants to give us in those difficult times. It is also known as the Divine Exchange!
A great passage that illustrates the Divine Exchange is Isaiah 61 (please read). This chapter is clearly talking to the brokenhearted, those who are in mourning and grief, those who have been devastated, those who feel shame and disgrace, and those who need justice. This includes just about everyone I know! We have all experienced loss to one degree or another. Many of our family lines have been ravaged by addiction, abuse, and poverty which led to our shame. Those who were supposed to protect us and resource us fell short of this task. They did the best they could, but they themselves didn’t have the best upbringing either in many cases. And on and on it goes for generations until we are truly living on “ancient ruins”. Then without the proper foundation, every other loss, big or small, feels devastating because our brains and hearts are not wired to cope with the normal ups and downs this life on earth has to offer. Talk about dysfunctional! Let’s put the FUN back into dysFUNctional! Joy is one of the many upgrades God has for us if this is our story.
You see, God designed joy to be our main emotional state. The “joy of the Lord is our strength” (Neh. 8:10, grief being the context). He designed loving family to wire us to that joy. The enemy, knowing this, attacks our families such that they are not providing that foundation. Literally, in our brains, as loving parents help us return to joy when we are upset as babies, a ring is created within the brain structure that connects the joy center of the brain to the anger and fear regions of the brain. When this happens, the joy center of the brain becomes the emotional control center and regulates all of the other emotions. When we understand this, one of the upgrades that we can intentionally go after is joy. Even if we didn’t get that firmly established in our upbringing, we can now “rebuild on the ruins”, cooperate with how God made us and work at coming back to joy from every difficult emotion. This takes intentional practice, but everything worthwhile does. Graham Cooke says, “A truth which is not practiced denies God the right to upgrade your experience of Him.”
In James 1, we are told to “consider it all joy to face many kinds of trials”. When I first read that as a new believer I was shocked! We don’t naturally do that! But as I read on, God gave the “why”. We get upgrades when we consider these trials as opportunities for good coming our way. The upgrades are perseverance which leads to maturity which leads to being complete which leads to lacking nothing. I like that last part! However, I’m never going to get there if I don’t first choose to count the various trials that come my way as joyful opportunities.
So going back to Isaiah 61, here are a list of upgrades God promises us when we experience the downside of life: Him binding up the broken heart, freedom, favor, comfort, beauty for ashes, oil of gladness for mourning, garment of praise for the spirit of despair, strength (He will strengthen us and call us “oaks of righteousness”), rebuilding on the ruins, renewal where we are devastated, a double portion for our shame, rejoicing in our inheritance for disgrace, everlasting joy, justice, His faithfulness, reward, an everlasting covenant with Him, fame for our offspring, His blessing on us and our children, garment of salvation, robe of righteousness, and more! Just thinking about all that brings me joy! Then even more joy comes when His promises manifest, which they will! Faith, peace, and hope are needed as we wait. Those in and of themselves are upgrades!
The process the butterfly goes through illustrates the importance of our waiting with joyful hope and expectation until His promise comes about. If someone sees the butterfly’s struggle and helps it get out of the struggle, the butterfly dies because it is not strong enough to fly. It is in the struggle of breaking out of the cocoon that it gets the strength to fly. The glory of its colors and flight is the Lord’s job, but the perseverance of breaking out of the cocoon is the butterfly’s job. Our cocoon, many times, is the process of not conforming to the world’s way of thinking especially when we struggle, but keeping our focus on choosing God’s way of thinking even when we can’t see His promises manifested yet. Don’t quit and lose your upgrade!