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Lenten Meditation : Cultivating Inner Joy


I carry a lot of tension in my body–a physical sign of carrying an emotionally heavy load. I still struggle with the emotional and physical signs of stress and anxiety.


I doubt I’m alone.  When we dig deep and get past the surface excuses of our fears and worries, most of the resistance we carry stems from a lack of trust in God. We have ideas of how we want our lives to turn out. So does God (and–spoiler alert–it’s a better plan than ours!).  Instead of trusting God with His perfect plan, we brace ourselves to go into action to make S+!# (and compared to God’s plan, that’s about how it ranks) happen on our own.


Going it alone, outside of the will of God, always creates more problems than it solves. Instead of living in peace and joy, we are in a state of angst and distrust of others and God. We create our own realities. When we are walking through life trying to control situations and people out of fear of calamity, looking for the other shoe to drop, and imagining that others are "out to get us," we create a living hell for ourselves. On the flip side, when our own inner world is filled with gratitude and we accept nothing but the highest and best thoughts about ourselves and others, a product of a childlike trust in our heavenly father, this is reflected in the world we see.


This teaching is Biblical. While teaching the Philippians how to nurture the peace of God within their hearts, Paul urges them to consider their thoughts.

Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.  ~Philippians 4:8


Paul then promises that if they do this, the "God of peace" will be with them (Philippians 4:9).


Similarly, in Matthew 23:26, Jesus urges the Pharisees to look at their inner world to fix their outer.

Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.  ~Matthew 23:26

 

When we feel at war with the world, the first and best step to making peace with it all is creating that peace within our hearts. From that inner space of peace, the world around us will gradually begin to look different.

 

In addition to purifying our thoughts, we must also cleanse our hearts from our distrustful ways, must instead become like children, leaning contentedly on the breast of our parents.


Jesus reminds us that the kingdom of heaven belongs to these little children, the souls who rely on their heavenly Father for everything.


I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.  ~Matthew 18:3


Trust and allow. Being in the kingdom, the kingdom of God's joy, isn't so much about what we do as much as what we DON'T do. It's about letting go of our agenda and opening ourselves to something much greater.  It’s about:

  • Looking for the good, beautiful, and lovely in every person and situation.

  • Trusting God to work all things for good and EXPECTING God to show up.

  • Allowing God to work in and through us.

  • Releasing expectations and going with the flow of God's plan

  • Showing up every day looking for the miracles (the shifts from fear to love) both within ourselves and in those around us.


In short, having a childlike heart and not taking ourselves or our lives so darn seriously.  When we are at rest in God's arms, we are able to not only be our happiest, but also serve Him best as well.


And so, Son or Daughter of God, please consider this: What are you protecting yourself from? Joy? Let it flow!  Love?  Let it dance!  It is time to let go of ALL resistance and allow the divine light to pour forth.  Love never harms another.  Joy never harms another.  Love and joy are what God is, and what He created you to be.  Just be that love and joy and dance your heart out!


Stop limiting what God can do in and through you by stubbornly sticking to your own plan. Lean into and trust in the Holy Spirit's power within you and in your life.


As we, like little children, trust our Father God fully and completely, surrender our expectations to Him, and allow the thoughts in our minds to shift to the highest and best, we will have that childlike joy and awe running through us and out of us. We become a sort of emotional contagion, like yeast in bread dough (Matthew 13:31-33). Our joy, our happiness becomes contagious--first to our families, then our neighbors and coworkers, and beyond. 


So, let's release all that tension, trust in God, and spread the contagion of joy!


~submitted by Leah C.

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