When was the last time you danced for joy? Do you experience joy in your daily life?
If you’re like me, those moments are fleeting. They don’t happen often enough. If you’re not like me and you experience joy EVERY day then I am happy for you. Allow me to tell you about the rest of us.
Life is hard. I am sure you can agree with this. The pains of life can sideline us and take us off the dance floor of joy. The pain of betrayal can cut deep. Disappointment of others can burn. Death of a loved one can sting like nothing else can. None of us will get through life without some hurts and some pain along the way. Some of the hurts can even be self-inflicted by the wrong choices and stupid things we do. This is the part of life I don’t like very much. I don’t like pain. When I speak of pain here I am not necessarily referring to physical pain but in the pain that scars your heart or the wounds that bruise your soul.
Jesus warned us that it wouldn’t be easy. Many television preachers tell you a different story. If you “sow a seed” (i.e. give money) to their ministry, you will have it easy and material blessings. Ever read about Jesus owning a fleet of camels or several houses? It is not a sin to have material blessings from God but we shouldn’t expect it or base our hope in Christ on that. We should expect a “cross” to bear. In fact, Jesus said that we should expect tribulation in this life. (John 16:33) Just because you and I are believers does not mean we will never experience pain. It’s difficult to dance for joy when you are hurting or scarred from past pain.
Scars are visible signs of past hurts. When you see a scar, it is a reminder of pain that has been experienced. Several years ago I had surgery to remove a tumor in my chest; although the pain is gone I have a scar where the incision was made which reminds me of the pain and the fear of having my first surgery wondering if the tumor would be cancerous. A physical scar is visible to others but the scars on our heart cannot be seen and often others have no clue it exists. People wonder why we act the way we do but don’t understand the hurts we have within. While on the outside it may seem like we’re okay, when in reality the joy is gone and we’ve lost our dance.
I wish I could be one of those people who can be joyful all the time. I am not. Unfortunately, when I am hurt, I often retreat into my shell and shut people out. During those times I am not in the mood for the scripture quoting or religious clichés I have heard all of my life. I guess it is harder for me because I have seen the emotionalism in the church and the lame things people tend to say when you are hurting. Things like “keep on keeping on” or “the joy of the Lord is your strength”. The truth is when I hear stuff like that it turns my stomach. I know people mean well but I’ve heard it all before.
So the question is - how can we experience joy while we are hurting? How is the joy of the Lord exactly our strength? How is it that the Lord can be our strength during times of weakness? How do we get our dance back?
David is described as a man after God’s own heart but if you read about David’s life, you know that he had his share of pain and a life that was scarred. In spite of the scars, David knew how to worship God. In fact, when the Ark of the Covenant (which represented the presence of God) came into town, David leaped and danced before the Lord. He was so passionate about it that he even danced right out of his clothes. (2 Samuel 6:14-16) The presence of God should excite us like that too. When we are going through the pains of our life, we need to make the presence of God our priority. That is where we regain our strength to dance. That is where we understand that the joy of the Lord is our strength. Too many times we don’t feel like making the effort. We would rather turn to our own comfort and embrace our depression and nurse our hurts rather than enter into the presence of the Lord.
How do we experience the presence of the Lord? First we must make TIME for Him. We fill our times with so much useless stuff (television, Internet, and even church work) that we never have the quality of time that we could spend with the Lord. The presence of the Lord should be more important than anything else. That is how we really experience healing for our emotional hurts and wounds to our souls. He can’t heal us if we don’t spend time with him.
The hurts we experience in life will either make us bitter or make us better. It all depends on which partner we choose to dance with. If we choose Jesus, we can trust in his lead and know that we can cast our cares on Him. (1 Peter 5:7) If we choose the devil, he will lead us into the wrong direction and more pain to ourselves and others. His desire is to destroy us and separate us from God.
Let’s just be honest here. We WILL experience hurts and our hearts will be scarred. We will have times in our life when we will lose our dance of joy in the Lord. How can we get it back? What steps can we take to recover from emotional wounds? How can we heal the dancer within us?
STEP #1 - REST
When we’re fresh from a painful experience we need to rest. Take a break. Get away from the person or situation so we can renew our mind. (Ephesians 4:23-24; Romans 12:2) Joy is a mental state of mind, not just an emotion. The fast pace of life doesn’t help. We must take a time-out to rest our mind and body.
STEP #2 - TREATMENT
We all have something we cling to for comfort. Many of those things we choose are not really true comfort. We need the right treatment for our pain. Let’s choose the right way to deal with it. We need to bring back the right “fruit” into our spiritual diet. The fruit of the Spirit is the right diet. (Galatians 5:22-25)
STEP #3 - THERAPY
We have to deal with the pain. We can’t ignore it. The pain will never heal if you ignore it. Failure to do so will result in a permanent spiritual limp. We’re only limiting ourselves when we don’t deal with the pain. We have to strengthen those painful areas in our life and resolve to do right regardless of the situation. (Galatians 6:9)
STEP #4 - RECOVERY
We have to get back on the floor of life. It’s too late to give up now. We have to have our minds made up that we are going to press through this pain. It may hurt but we aren’t going to give up now. We must live this life with patience and determination. (Colossians 1:11)
As I write this, I will be honest with you; I’m not doing too well with this at the moment. I am hurting and frustrated with life. I have lost my dance. I want it back. I miss my dance! I have allowed the difficulties of life to take it away from me. I don’t just want to write something “spiritual” here but I want it to be practical. I want to write something that will touch your soul and mine. I am determined not to let the devil become my dance partner. Jesus is the only way to make it through this life. It’s time for us to learn the right steps, trust our partner and get back our dance!