Several people have asked, as of late, what’s happened to me. I’ve scarcely said anything all year, and the two posts that I did make were not my typical type of posts. Well, for those who don’t know, earlier this year my family and I embarked on a new journey, one that was very difficult to begin. See, at the beginning of the year, I relocated to IL in order to serve as a live-in nanny to a little girl and her mother, who is a doctor.
Now, this comes as something of a shock, I am sure, for some of you. It certainly did to many of the people in my life. The reason for this shock is because I have never made a secret of the fact that, though I am in my early 20s, I fully intend to stay under the direction and authority of my Father and work alongside my parents to help mould my younger siblings and care for my Father’s house, as well as be an extension of his ministry until such a time when the Lord would transfer my talents to helping my future husband, a path which is very different from most young women my age.
Which is why, I suppose, it is reasonable that many people have felt like my current situation is a step away from those desires. I’ve heard the“positivity” of “I’m so glad you’re finally getting out and spreading your wings”, or things like “Now you finally get to experience the things you’ve never been able to do before”, and yet others have told me how disheartening it is to see me leaving behind the principles I have held to for so long. Funny how there is always two sides to every coin, isn’t it?
The reality of my situation, though, is that I’m not here in IL, away from my family, friends, and church family, because I’m “spreading my wings” and breaking away. If that had been my intention, I would have gone into a field that showcased my artistic talents a little more. So no, I’m not here in IL for the reasons that immediately come to mind. I’m here because God has called me to minister into the lives of two very special people, at the moment.
You see, in James 1:27, the Bible says pure and undefiled religion before God the Father is this: to visit the fatherless and the widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.
In this verse, the Lord speaks about the importance of how we, as Christians, are called to minister to widows and to the fatherless, and in today’s society we are seeing an epidemic of fatherless children, one of whom is Alyssa, the little girl whose life I have been given the unique opportunity to pour into day in, day out, because you see, Alyssa’s father is no longer able to be in her life, for the time being, thus leaving her a fatherless child.
This (my position as a nanny) really isn’t a job, it’s a ministry, very similar to when I minister to my very diverse group of troubled teens, only this time I’m living with the broken hearts of Alyssa and her mom. I don’t get to turn it off. When they feel pain because of their situation, I see it. I see every day, firsthand, just how seriously our choices impact not only ourselves, but the people around us; even the most precious individuals in our lives, like our children.
So, between helping and ministering to them, keeping in contact with my family on a daily basis, and ministering to my troubled teens and continuing to mentor various people the Lord has placed under my care, my time has been a bit full. Which means that my blog has had to move to the back burner for a bit. However, I have been thinking about all of you during this time, and I have several blog posts in the works, at the moment, that I have felt led to share with you all. So have no fear, I am still alive and well and I have not forgotten about you all! In fact, over the next few weeks you will get to read some of those things the Lord has placed on my heart, as I will be releasing them soon. One of which I want to share with you all today, something the Lord has been teaching me in a very real way while away from my family.
You see, what I am about to share is something which I, like many others, knew in my head, but had not put into practice in my life. It’s something we all will say, but we don’t all put into practice. It’s something which has humbled me in my walk, and it’s something the Lord wants me to share with you all, even though it is a bit hard for me to admit to.
You see, I have been raised in a very tight-knit family. Even before salvation we were close. I never went through that period that everyone supposedly goes through where they are embarrassed by their parents or their siblings. I love doing things with my family, I enjoy talking with not only my various siblings, but also my parents, and thus, in many ways, I depend on my family, which is not only healthy, but scriptural. However, as I knew, but had not yet learned, it can easily become unhealthy, especially in the conservative homeschooling world.
I learned very quickly upon moving to IL that I depend on my family for much more than just monetary and physical needs. I mean, I knew that I depended on them for more than that, but I didn’t realize just how much I do. Over the course of my life I have found much of my happiness and joy through my family. Even in the darkest hours of my life, including my brother’s death.
Now, you might be saying to yourself, “but that is a good thing”. Yes, it is, which is why I think this sin that I am about to address is so easy to fall into, as Christians.
By the time I was in my second week of living here in IL, I hit depression. This depression wasn’t because I was being mistreated, nor was it because I was overwhelmed by the struggles of the family I am living with. I’ve dealt with some very broken, emotionally damaged individuals before, and the Lord always keeps me afloat, even when my heart breaks for the people I am called to love and minister to, so I knew that wasn’t it. No, what I quickly discovered through my talks with the Lord was that this depression came from the fact that I had replaced finding joy in Christ, with finding joy in my family. What should be a beautiful thing had turned into a negative thing.
In Luke 14:26 Jesus says “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.”
Now, anyone who has ever studied this verse knows that Jesus is not actually telling us to hate our family and our lives, but instead is saying that we should love Him so much that in comparison to our love for Him, our love for family appears as hate (wow, what an incredible word picture! If you haven’t studied this before, you really should, it’s an amazing study!).
You see (I know, I’m using that phrase way too much, but it’s a phrase I often use when I feel vulnerable, I’ve found, and I decided that I’m not editing out my vulnerability from this post), as Christians we are called to find our joy in no one and nothing other than Christ. We shouldn’t be finding it in our spouses—or the idea of a future spouse for that matter—and we shouldn’t be finding it in the number of children we do or don’t have. We shouldn’t be finding it in our Church, the body of believers with which we fellowship, our jobs, the amount of money we make—the Bible is clear. We find our joy in Christ alone. And when we transfer our joy in Christ on another (or on something), we will find that we lose joy when that object of our affection is gone. Oddly enough, that’s often when we need joy the most. See, I think that one of issues we run into as Christians is the “blooming where you’re planted” mentalities. By the way, let me preface I love that phrase and use it all the time in my life, and as a reminder to others. But what I mean by this phrase gets us into trouble is that I think we have the tendency to think that, if we are finding joy in our situation, then we are doing what we are called to do, which is not true. See, we are not only called to joy, but we are called to a very specific kind of joy. Joy in Christ.
Let me give you an example that perhaps many of you can identify with.
I am a rather content individual for being in my early twenties and unmarried. I’m not pining over my lack of marital status. I’m not pining over the fact that I don’t have children and I’m not running my own home. There are days when it is difficult, yes, and I do long for those things, but I am content with where the Lord has me and what His current plan for my life is. That being said, though I am finding joy in my singleness and am blooming where I am planted, I’m not being biblical in my contentedness and joy if I am not pulling my joy from Christ.
Someday, we will be stripped of all we have in this nation. We will no longer be a free people and Christians will be put in jail for their beliefs. When that day comes (hypothetically, because it may not be in your lifetime), will you still have joy? When all is stripped from you and you are rotting in a cell, perhaps even being tortured, will you still have joy? If your joy comes from Christ, and not the things and people around you, then the answer would be yes, because Christ never leaves us. He never forsakes us.
The Bible is clear. In this life there will be many trials, but if we seek joy and comfort in Christ, we can never lose it, no matter what those trials are.
Where is your joy coming from? I would have said mine was coming from Christ earlier this year, but that just wasn’t the truth. I challenge you to look at your life and examine it, because you don’t want to end up in a situation like I did. The source of my joy was gone when I needed it most. Had my joy been in Christ, I could have never lost it.
Don’t lose your joy.
P.S. Yes, that is a picture of me, for those who were wondering.