"... I came that they may have life and have it abundantly." John 10:10
If we listen to the voices swirling around us, somewhere along the line we're going to question if we've somehow missed the train that transports those truly good things in life. You know, those blessings that provide us with the real reason to praise God for the promise of life abundant. Our Enemy doesn't want us to abound joyfully in our complete standing. He has one goal in mind: To take our hunger for more and use it to rob us of the gratitude that prompts the singing of God's glorious grace. He's a wretched thief who will do whatever it takes to secure his prize, even if it means seducing us with harmful comparisons that can have us undermining the blessings of others in the process of highlighting our own.
It's a subtle seduction, one that leaves us gently soothing our own heart even as we unsettle the heart of another. If you listen carefully, you'll catch the comparisons. It's heard when the married couple declares that the fulfillment of their union trumps the emptiness of singlehood. It's heard when the young mother proclaims that there's no happiness that comes close to holding a newborn child, or when the grandparent boasts that nothing competes with the blessing of grandchildren.
The subtle message gets louder when these blessings of special privilege get dissected even deeper. Forget about missing the train carrying the good life, we can start wondering if we're even waiting at the right station. Some of you can relate, remembering the twinge of pain you felt as you listened to your friends conversing. I'm so glad God gave me a family, because life would be so empty without a husband to love and children to enjoy. Or maybe you're thinking of that family member whose words painfully pressed deeper into your heart with every mental replay. I would have been fine with just having daughters, but no man should go through life without a son.
Most of us have no intention to hurt others with these kinds of articulations, but innocence doesn't remove the lie or the sting of the message. I couldn't help but to cringe when I recently read this following comment on a Facebook thread: There's something about becoming a mother that completes a woman. I thought marriage did that, but now I realize it's children. I'm not exactly certain what to make of a comment like this. Whatever the intention, apparently seeing the childless as actual people is only a figment of our imagination. Ugh. I hate when a plot is unveiled without a spoiler alert.
I want to rejoice over all that God has given me, but I don't want to rejoice at the expense of others. I don't want to highlight God's goodness in my life even as I undermine His goodness in the life of another. And I don't want to just avoid saying things that undermine that goodness, I don't want to even think them. I don't want to arrogantly presume that my life is somehow more capable of being abundantly lived than any other Believer whose life is found in Christ, no matter their struggles, no matter their loss, no matter their pain. On the flip side, I don't want to presume that my life is less capable of being abundantly lived, no matter their blessings, no matter their rewards, no matter their gain.
The joy of our salvation is what has us savoring Christ and acknowledging His sovereign hand of goodness in all things. Even the painful and difficult things that we can't begin to understand. Nothing glorifies God more than our expressions of praise, and that's exactly why our joy is so brutally attacked. Seductively whispering lies, the Enemy loves discouraging our hearts. But he also loves seducing us into taking aim at others and discouraging their hearts. Instead of simply expressing gratitude that we don't have to work outside the home, we insert negative comparison that undermines the choice of those who do. Instead of simply expressing gratitude that we get to homeschool, we insert negative judgment that undermines the decision of those who don't. And instead of simply expressing gratitude for being parents (grand or otherwise), we undermine the status of those who are aren't. It's called friendly fire. And boy oh boy does it burn.
Even our spiritual desires are capable of becoming twisted into weapons that wound. Lulled to sleep by the comfort of our own self-righteousness, beautiful gifts of grace can remain wholly unnoticed. It's why it's not good enough that our adult children love God and faithfully worship Him where the gospel is proclaimed. With a heart of ingratitude, we undermine their joy because they're not in a church of our approval, with music and a culture of our choosing. It's not good enough that our adult son is going to seminary to study the Word and grow in his understanding of gospel grace. With a heart of judgment, we undermine his joy because it's not the seminary on our wish list, with professors and a positioning on our page. In our stupor, the path of spiritual intention can lead us so far from the sight of grace, that those witnessing our ingratitude are left shaking their heads in disbelief that we could be so blind.
Because of Christ, I have been granted the privilege to live abundantly in the fullness of His joy. This is the message of truth that beats within my heart. It's a privilege of joy too sizable to be barred by any restraints of singlehood, motherhood, or fatherhood. It's a privilege of joy too strong to be broken by any abuse of kinship, friendship, or leadership. And it's a privilege of joy too secure to be bound by any feeling of enjoyment, amusement or merriment. It's not frightened by my darkness, it's not forgetful of my brokenness, and it's not frustrated by my weakness. It's a privilege of joy that fills me with passion and conviction to have nothing echo from my heart other than the truth that I am complete in Christ.
Lord, please grant me grace to live abundantly in the fullness of Your joy!
"These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full..." John 15:11