I was exhausted: physically, emotionally, and spiritually depleted of joy and hope. I just needed a break, somehow to find rest in the midst of around-the-clock demands.
Guilt and regret plagued my conscience. I said “yes” to a call from the Lord, but now it was a burden. As the sun rose each morning, I felt far from the mercies that were supposed to accompany the new day.
What was wrong with me? Why couldn’t I serve the Lord with gladness?
Because God desires to help us look more like Jesus, He orchestrates circumstances in our lives to expose selfishness. We will each go through seasons of life that expose our self-centered attitudes. God desires to uproot this thief of joy from the garden of our hearts. Unfortunately, weeding creates discomfort or even pain.
A challenging season that weeded out selfishness in my life arrived when I accepted the call to become a mother. For you, it may be the same, or any number of pressures in life, such as caring for a parent, dealing with a chronic illness, coping with a disability, trying to navigate a mental health issue or any challenge that threatens joy.
So there I was, feeling God tug on those weeds of selfishness. Summertime was in full swing, and I wanted a change of scenery. I joined my family for a week-long getaway at the seashore. Daddy was overseas on a business trip, so I decided to go solo with the baby and toddler.
I arrived at the beach full of hope and expectation at the fun and relaxation soon to be mine. But instead of refreshed, I was devastated. The children did not know that mommy was on vacation. The unrelenting demands of motherhood left no room for joy.
I wistfully recalled the past when my seaside holidays were characterized by leisurely walks hand-in-hand with my husband, luxuriant hours relaxing in a lounge chair with a good book, unhurried gourmet meals paired with a bottle of fine wine.
A tsunami of self-pity and discontentment washed over me.
Rather than go to the Lord with my mounting resentment, I decided to take matters into my own hands. After much-disgruntled problem solving, I devised a plan: I organized the schedule so that the baby and toddler would take a simultaneous nap after lunch the next day. This arrangement would provide a golden hour and a half to myself at the beach.
I had everything organized, put the cherubs down for their naps, and dashed to the beach. I reclined, relishing my success, thrilled to have a time of solitude, be it ever so brief.
Not ten minutes later, I heard a voice from the house, “Mindy, the baby is crying.”
What?! No!! I stomped back to the house, tears of frustration stinging the corners of my eyes as I lifted the wailing baby out of his crib. The afternoon was miserable as I indulged my resentment. Since the children did not nap at all that day, immediately after dinner and bath, they both fell asleep.
Oh my word, they are in bed. I bolt for the beach. All is quiet. The shoreline is deserted. The air cools slightly as the sun descends to the horizon, the heavens flush pink and orange. Soothing warmth radiates from the sand. The wind is quiet, the water glassy and still. As I survey the idyllic scene, gratitude swells in my heart.
“Thank you, God, for a sweet blessing in the midst of my frustrating day. This is true serenity. What a gift!”
The solitude nourishes and refreshes my soul.
A reply from the Lord forms in my thoughts, “Dearest, this is was I planned for you all along. Why didn’t you trust me as your provider? You caused yourself needless stress and frustration by trying to make your own provision. I desire to care for you. I desire to bring you joy, but when you ignore me and instead make your own plans, you fight and struggle and miss the gifts I wish to give you.”
The words of Simon Peter come to me: “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.” I Peter 5: 6-7 (ESV)
I later discover this verse in another translation, and it becomes one of my favorite promises:
“Live carefree before God; he is most careful with you.” I Peter 5:7 (The Message)
Can you imagine living carefree? Doesn’t that sound positively joyful?
When we know that God is careful with us, that He longs to delight our soul with pleasures forevermore, the cultivation of joy begins. It starts with abiding in Christ, finding joy in His presence, trusting that He can meet all our needs, just as David expresses:
“You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.” Psalm 16:11 (NIV)
Joy comes from God’s presence, relying on His provision, receiving His gifts with humble submission and patient obedience. We may seek Him, requesting help simply to survive, but God has a grand vision. He desires for us to become nothing less than a masterpiece. (Ephesians 2:10)
The Master Gardener desires to cultivate our lives into a magnificent botanical garden. As we learn to trust Him and yield to His plans, we allow Him to continue weeding and planting, gradually crafting the masterpiece of a lifetime.
Cultivation takes time. Seasons of dormancy. Seasons of pruning. Seasons of growth. Different seasons bring different trials — some merely inconvenient and others truly shattering. When life is oppressive, you may not perceive that you are becoming a masterpiece. But when you look into the hidden spaces of your heart, once choked with tangled vines, you will see that God is at work.
As improbable as it may sound, seasons of obedience which root out the weeds of selfishness yield seasons of joy.
I pray that you perceive how lovingly your Father cares for you. He is a trustworthy Master Gardener, desiring to remove prickly thorns so that your life will yield sweet Spirit fruit. He is careful with you – your part is simply to say “yes” to His master plan. It is God’s pleasure to transform you into the likeness of His Son.