A Burning Vision – Joy

Photo by Daniel Sessler, taken from Unsplash
Photo by Daniel Sessler, taken from Unsplash

There is a subject that’s been on my mind for years. It’s a major theme through my Raven Series. It’s a song in my heart on my good days, and the missing key when my grumbles and frustrations create bad days. The days come and go, and it isn’t about what happens during a twenty-four-hour revolution of the sun. That’s not what makes the days good or bad, not really. How we react to what comes in a day, a year, a lifetime, that’s what fashions who we are. And how we react is based on something burning deep within us. If we keep that fire burning, what happens to us and around us shouldn’t shake our inmost hearts.

We have a home. A destination. A place and Love far beyond anything this world can touch. One day we will meet our God face to face, and be with Him forever.

When we center our hearts on this fact all of life’s circumstances change. Afflictions don’t go away, and we shouldn’t pretend they do; we cry out to God to rescue us from whatever trial comes our way, and work hard to climb out of it. But the attitude backed by truth that we take to the trial has the ability of pulling out the sting, of making it bearable.

Remember Jesus is lovingly holding you secure. Remember where we are going. Remember eternity, and that God had promised he will never let you go. If we keep our eyes focused on that hope, if we keep the vision of the land where we are headed always before our eyes, then everything else fades in comparison. Trials become bumps on the road home.

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My three main characters in the Raven Books did something. It’s an odd fact that characters in a book tend to take on a life of their own. Yes, I’m the author, and I do plan a character to some extent. But there comes a point where the character takes on their own personality and seems to come alive, and even I can’t make them do things, or stop them doing other things. C.S. Lewis once compared it to how God’s sovereignty and man’s will both exist in the same reality; it’s one of my favorite explanations of the antinomy because I get it. Anyway, that’s a subject for a different post. My point right now is just to tell you my three main characters took on three difference aspects of this idea of keeping a vision of heaven burning. I will do a blog post about each one in the coming months, leading up to the release of the first book. But I’m not going to tell you which character is which, you’ll have to read the books and see if you can figure it out yourself. Today, let’s consider the first aspect.

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Have you ever had someone ask you the difference between happiness and joy? Joy runs deeper than circumstances. Happiness is easier to break, it is a bubbly thing liable to burst at the smallest upset. But a joy founded in the right thing is like a mountain; solid, majestic, immoveable, beautiful, and the inspiration of a thousand songs.

“Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls: yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation.[1]

In a lovely, poetic way Habakkuk tells us exactly what we need to learn about joy. He makes a choice to find joy in God, even in the midst of the terrible things God has shown him are coming. This is a joy that cannot be broken by anything in this world. It is a joy that cannot be broken in the next world, because it is founded on God’s salvation, the promise that He has spoken to His people. He will never let us go. We are His. Not will be, not maybe if we’re good, but we are His. And the loving Father will bring us home to be with Him for all eternity.

This is joy. This is a cause for rejoicing, and that doesn’t change no matter what else changes. When we think on our future as a Christian, it should wreath our souls in smiles and bring sunshine through the clouds.

Just to be clear, I’m not saying we should be laughing and cheerful all the time. Even the world recognizes that kind of hypocritic play-acting and despises it. No, there are times of legitimate mourning and deep sorrow, and we shouldn’t try to force a happy veneer over them. But joy can run deep even when the tears won’t stop. Sometimes the joy can grow stronger and deeper, as we realize again that no matter what we lose in this life eternity stands waiting for us. The value of the unshakeable life to come is never seen more clearly than when our whole life is shaking down here. And that realization itself can bring such joy into the Christian’s life! Knowing that nothing can take away our heavenly Husband’s love, nothing can wash away the seal of His blood, nothing can steal our home in heaven from us… Even in the very midst of the storms and horrors, this joy towers firm and real and beautiful in our lives.

This must be our “inmost calm,” as the hymn writer puts it. Strive everyday to choose joy when facing a disappointment or frustration. Train yourself to focus on the joy of our salvation. It takes practice and a real struggle of willpower sometimes (when we want to sulk and mope and whine and feel sorry for ourselves) to turn our eyes away from us and up to God. Because that’s what it takes. That is the source of our joy and our peace. We joy in our God. Not in anything we have, not in any human relationship, not in any success or fortune. God is our joy. We are shakable. We are frail, sinful, pitiable pieces of adamic dust. If we focus on us or those around us we will be disappointed and heartbroken. But turn your eyes toward the God Who chose you before eternity, Who loves you with a blood red love, Who holds you fast and guides your steps… This is a beautiful, solid, glorious sight and it is more than enough to build up mountains of unshakeable joy.

Keep that vision of burning in front of your eyes. Keep the certainty of our heavenly home firm in front of you on the happy days and the sad ones, and choose to settle deep into the joy it brings. Keep that vision, and nothing can shake your soul here.

 

“My life flows on in endless song;
Above earth’s lamentation,
I catch the sweet, though far-off hymn
That hails a new creation.

Through all the tumult and the strife,
I hear that music ringing;
It finds an echo in my soul—
How can I keep from singing?

No storm can shake my inmost calm
While to that Rock I’m clinging;
Since Christ is Lord of heav’n and earth,
How can I keep from singing?”

-Robert Lowry

[1] Habakkuk 3:17-18

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