In Isaiah 61, God tells Isaiah that under the new covenant (Jesus' death and resurrection which were still to come at the time), God will show us His favor. In Joni's interpretation of this chapter, the promise reads like this, "He has come to bind up the wounds of the brokenhearted and to comfort all who mourn...to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair." When I read this, I smiled and chuckled a little to myself. Do you ever have those verses or those words or songs or whatever that just speak deeply of and to your spirit? This was one that I felt was right from God to and from mine. He gets me. And that is one of the things that I love most about Him...He is mine and I am His. It also spoke of hope for those around me who have lost loved ones this year. Especially at Christmastime. Especially as a fresh start to this new year. God=Hope, Comfort, Love, Peace, Mercy, and this list could go on forever and ever. Amen!!
Friends, that's not all, though. There is another verse from Isaiah, a verse that I shared with a friend that was also on her heart about a month ago that Joni shared again with me in Chapter Five of her book, "Forget the former things, do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing." I had read that verse earlier in the day from my Bible and when I was with my mom that day, I shared that with her, too. Sometimes we get so stuck in what was, that we are held back from enjoying what is and can miss what is yet to come. We're STUCK right where we are because we are holding on to the things of the past--the hurts, the pains, the unanswered (in our own minds) prayers--that we miss what is right here in front of us. I know that has been my story for too many years. Now, though, God has told me that He plans redemption for me--for any of us willing to step out of the old and into His promise that comes with the New Covenant; that of hope and a future. Whenever I get stuck in my stinkin' thinkin' and that "I;m never going to..." I remind myself that thought is not truth. It is a lie. God said He will redeem the things of old and start anew.
I can't change what has happened in my past, nor would I. Like Joni, I know that God has used even the bad things in my life for good. The woman I am today is all born of the journey I have already taken and in preparation for what is still to come. I don't really wonder how my life would have been different if I had taken another path because I like who I am, I love the life I am living and sharing with my children, friends, and family, and I continue to embrace that God is doing a good work in me so that His work can be done.
I want to leave you with two things that Joni said that really struck me about the spirit God puts into us when we seek him:
"Yes, I pray that my pain might be removed, that it might cease; but more so, I pray for the strength to bear it, the grace to benefit from it, and the devotion to offer it up to God as a sacrifice of praise...For such prayers are a way for me to know God and to know Him deeper, higher, richer, wider, and fuller--much fuller than if I comfortably cruised through life in my wheelchair." (p.35)
"....because I had delighted myself in God, He miraculously replaced my little private lists of wants and wishes with a list of His own. His desires became mine. And what are His desires? That the gospel go forth, that the kingdom be advance, that the earth be reclaimed as rightfully His, that the lost get saved, that His glories be made known."Joni goes on to share that it is because God's power shows up best through our weakness--that's when it's truly by Him and not by us that things happen. She is thankful for being healed on this inside even if her vessel is still broken. Her vessel will be replaced when God comes again or takes her to Him. In the meantime, she has a lot of people to share His message with. And many to tell that sin is not the only thing that prevents healing. Sometimes, it's part of God's plan to leave us just as we are because it is to His benefit and that of those around us who need to know that there are others in the same condition who know the Father and come to Him for all the desires of their heart. God loves you. Not because of what you do or who you are, but because you are made in His image, His child, His beloved. Even in the midst of our pain, suffering, mourning, broken heart or any other state or condition we find ourselves in, He is. And always will be. Seek Him with all your heart. It's worth the hard journey. And it will be hard. Jesus tells us in John 16:33 (NLT), "I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world."
If you question suffering, I highly recommend Joni's book. She knows suffering and pain, but moreover, she knows God and that He has "overcome the world."