Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, and sustain me with a willing spirit. – Psalm 51:12
There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For in Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set you free from the law of sin and death…[We] do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. Those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh; but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. – Romans 8:1-2, 4-5
Last night I was spent…not because the day was exceptionally full or tiring. More spent from overthinking and troubled by the usual. Checking my heart…not with the truth of Scripture, but with that emotional judgy part of my brain that insists that: I don’t do enough or love well enough. Of course, my thoughts rarely go so far as “I’m not enough”, because that is actually true. I know, with all my being, that God has to be in every equation. God and community.
A couple of nights ago, after a day that was full and exhausting, I got a phone call from a young Afghan friend of ours. A middle schooler whose little family our church helped resettle over a year ago. He was so excited that a friend of his (who he knew from their first refugee experience entering the US) was visiting in town. He had this one night to see him before this friend returned to his home. Our young friend, his Afghan friend from school, and this visiting friend had the opportunity to spend the evening together. He just needed a ride.
My response was less than loving. He must have known about this opportunity before the moment that he called needing a ride. I was not going to be engaged. Sounds pretty cold, right? Especially because I know this middle schooler very well and care deeply for him and his family. Or do I really?
As we talked about possible other options, my husband came through and communicated for me not to get drawn in. He knew my day had been long and wasn’t over, with a meeting still in front of me. Then… in seconds, he said, “I’ll drive him.”
I was shocked. And immediately pulled out of my spiritual dullness about this situation. I told our young friend that he had a ride, and then sent an alert to our church refugee resettlement team. Help! Could anyone give him a ride back home later this evening? Within minutes, one of the team said she could do it. Later when she reported on their ride back home, she wrote how happy and talkative he was (unusual for this sometimes unengaged 14 y/o). Having grown up overseas herself, she completely understood what a joy it was to meet up with friends from other places, and she was glad she could help him with that.
God and community. My chilly reception of this need from someone I love was met by God’s answer within the Body. I am so thankful, actually, that He moved in where I was tempted to distance myself.
So why am I sharing all this? There are days…weeks…months that struggle draws us away from the heart of God. Too many losses. Too much responsibility. Too little encouragement. Whatever it is…we can lose our joy. The Psalmist writer of Psalm 51 recognized his sinful heart and cried out to God. His confession and repentance led to restoration.
We know because of the finished work of the resurrected Christ, that our salvation is secure. It is the “joy of our salvation” that is sometimes lost along the way. We lose our fire…we forget the distance He came and the death He died to bring us back to Himself.
In Revelation, the apostle John wrote about the vision God gave him for the churches. He warns against the danger of being lukewarm – of doing the work in our own flesh, out of obligation, or in fear of man, whatever the motivation. He warns the Laodicean church not to shame them or even judge them but to remind them of what they are missing. Choosing a life of self-sufficiency (stunningly deceptive at best) rather than the all-sufficiency of Christ. “Christ in us. The hope of glory!”
“Write to the angel of the church in Laodicea: Thus says the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the originator of God’s creation: I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish that you were cold or hot. So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I am going to vomit you out of my mouth. For you say, ‘I’m rich; I have become wealthy and need nothing,’ and you don’t realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked. I advise you to buy from me gold refined in the fire so that you may be rich, white clothes so that you may be dressed and your shameful nakedness not be exposed, and ointment to spread on your eyes so that you may see. As many as I love, I rebuke and discipline. So be zealous and repent. See! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.
To the one who conquers I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne.
Let anyone who has ears to hear listen to what the Spirit says to the churches.” – Revelation 3:14-22
The love of God is like nothing else in this world. He warns us not to condemn but to compel. For us to see and hear how life is meant to be for us…and for our community. We are not alone. Nor do we have to obey God out of obligation…we are free to operate out of a willing spirit knowing that He will sustain us – both in the power of His Holy Spirit and within the community He draws around us.
May our lives ever be an altar that burns brightly to the glory of a God who loves us and provides all we need.
Restore to me the joy of my salvation Take me back to where it all began Where all I ever wanted was Your presence How I long to be there once again Light a fire that the world can't burn out Fan the flame till nothing between us remains Oh, my life is an altar to You Breathe again on the embers that burn In my heart A love taken back to the start Oh, my life is an altar to You Renew in me a pure and willing spirit Take me back to where it all began Before it all became so complicated How I long to be there once again God, I'm sorry Please forgive me For when I've gone cold Lord, I need You How I need You To awake my soul*