Lately I've been reading a book called "Walking with God: Talk to Him. Hear from Him. Really" by John Eldredge. It attempts to banish the often held assumption that God no longer speaks directly to His followers-that God only communicated that way to important characters in the Bible. Eldredge actually makes a list of Bible characters, "big" and "small", that God does speak to: Moses, Aaron, Hagar, Sarah, Ananias, etc. Then he says,
"Now if God doesn't also speak to us, why would he have given us all these stories of him speaking to others? 'Look-- here are hundreds of inspiring and hopeful stories about how God spoke to his people in this and that situation. Isn't it amazing? But you can't have that. He doesn't speak like that anymore.' That makes no sense at all. Why would God give you a book of exceptions?"
I don't know all of my false assumptions about God speaking to us, but this book has at least inspired me to be still enough to listen for God's voice in my own life. It feels a little experimental at times- but I believe it is helping. I've recently been struggling with subtle desires for things that are neither good for me, nor would satisfy. I'll watch a show or see a friend and think, "Hm...my life might have gone that way- might have gone differently in this area. I deserve something like that..." In taking that to God and seeking His answer I felt that His simple response was that He wants me to find my joy in Him. Nothing else. No one else.
Within days of having that thought I read John 15:9-11 (which is part of the vine and branches analogy)- "As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father's commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete." (Underline mine)
I just had this thought that soooo much of what I struggle with on a daily basis comes down to this: I attempt to find joy outside of God. Or I attempt to let God COMPLEMENT my joy instead of COMPLETE it. Perhaps I acknowledge a beautiful sunset God created or relish an unexpected giggle from my son- and maybe I thank God then for adding joy to my life. But then I go about the rest of my day as if God were stingy with joy- as if it were elusive. But if Jesus makes my joy complete- lacking nothing- I do not need any more joy- somehow I shouldn't have to look for it- at least not far. I have a permanent source of joy in all circumstances if I remain in the love of Jesus- if I obey His commands. I'm not saying that's always easy- in fact, God makes it clear it's impossible without Him. But this means that my joy does not come from whether my husband is constantly doing what I think he should, or whether my kids go to bed without putting up a fight. And perhaps my life could have gone differently- but no matter which path I took, or which new choices I make- my joy will always only be complete in Jesus.
I'm still searching for how to practically find that joy each day- but I know that each time I do, it melts away my need for more, my tendency to seek joy in comfort and entertainment, and my ingratitude. Piece by piece...less to be more.