There are two things you are sure to get from grinding grain manually: flour and sweat. Even in winter. Grinding around and around makes you plain old tired. Many people today live very tight schedules with little time to sit and rest. Sleep problems are common; chronic fatigue is not rare. Enter the manufacturers of energy drinks! They sell get-up-and-go. But the older I get, I find that the work of living, with its ups and downs and rounds and rounds, also produces a different type of fatigue, one that can make moving forward more difficult with each passing year. While energy drinks boost one’s blood sugar and pour on the caffeine and/or vitamins, there is a tiredness born of the heart that they cannot energize.
…a crushed spirit dries up the bones.
It is in the bones that new blood cells, new life, is made (Lev. 17:11: “For the life of a creature is in the blood…”). Were that to totally dry up, that body would die. Of course, this verse speaks of the psychosomatic connection between one’s mental attitude and physical health.
When my daughter was only 8 weeks old, doctors discovered a cyst in her abdomen. As I write this, I remember that moment with vivid clarity though it occurred 16 years ago. I remember the look on the face of the nurse giving the preliminary examination, and her unassuring smile as she asked me to wait while she went to get the doctor. I also remember the intense rush of emotion, the crushing sense of despair to the point that I nearly vomited. A moment before, life had a continuity and forward flow that I wasn’t consciously aware of, but when I heard that horrible news it came crashing to a halt. Often when people receive difficult news, their legs physically give out and they fall into the nearest chair for support. They do not have the energy to even stand, let alone move. It’s like one’s soul is drained. For me, this was one of life’s moments in which I experienced the above verse. It was only one of many, and I know that most everyone reading this has their own list of moments that we would quickly erase if we could. Before we get any more depressed, let’s look at the first half of Proverbs 17:22:
A cheerful heart is good medicine…
Cheerful! I like that word. Let’s look at a few more verses:
A heart at peace gives life to the body…
A happy heart makes the face cheerful…
A cheerful look brings joy to the heart…
While we are all well aware of the debilitating power of fear and despair, there is an equally motivating quality to joy that gives a human being the endurance and energy to go on. Joy is intricately connected with a sense of hope. Joy energizes and motivates. It swells the soul into action, and moves one forward. My daughter’s condition was correctable, and she is now a beautiful 16-year-old. My joy about her healing was even greater than my previous sense of despair for she is, after all, my daughter.
At the time of this writing, the Olympics have just ended. I was on my way to bed one evening when the women’s beach volleyball team was in the throes of striving for gold against the Chinese, who were proving to be formidable opponents. The competition was intense, and I found myself riveted, unable to go off to bed even after a long day. It was cool and rainy on the “beach,” the stands full with people in colorful rain gear and holding umbrellas, but the teammates were flushed and warm because of the heat of the competition. I watched with amazement as both sides literally hurled their bodies airborne in attempts to win each point, landing face-first in the sand, taking a beating. Victory lay ahead for one side as the score climbed in a waddle: Chinese ahead, Americans ahead, Chinese ahead, Americans ahead. At each break the women would go off to their respective sides and rest for just a moment, wiping their brows, taking a refreshing drink of water, encouraging one another, but no big smiles. Not yet. They pushed onward, pressing their minds and bodies into the competition for the hope of winning, the hope of the medal—for the joy that was set before them, if you will.
When the winning shot hit the sand, there was a momentary pause, a pause in which the brains of both players and observers made the connection, and then the burst of joy! Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh fell to their knees with shouts, hugging each other and laughing. They paraded around with American flags over their shoulders, kissed and greeted people on the sidelines and in the stands, and even announced, “This is for you, Mr. Bush!” The joy of victory that had been set before them and had motivated them was now exploding in the moment, and they spent time en-joy-ing (in joy) what they had worked so hard for in the competition. Like those athletes, Jesus pushed through difficult moments because of the joy before him. Hebrews 12 comes to mind:
(1) Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.
(2) Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
(3) Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
I imagine it was incredibly difficult for Jesus to make the walk up the hill to Calvary. Bloody and severely beaten, his physical condition added enormous stress to the battle raging in his mind. He knew his death was coming—death, the horrible end to life that humans fear intensely. This was the culmination of Jesus’ earthly ministry, both physically and mentally. What gave him the boost to get through? JOY. Descriptive joy, vivid joy, which he was able to hold in his mind about the future. His was a practiced joy that he could call upon in trial.
This verse speaks not only of Jesus’ struggle during a difficult time in life, but also of our own continuance through the trials we face. Our greatest energy will come from a deep understanding of where Jesus is now—at the finish line, encouraging us to look at him and where he is, a place of joy and re-joy-cing. How about you? Certainly you face times of debilitating despair. The very real, very practical side of using joy as God’s energy drink is to see in your mind in vivid detail your future destiny. And it begins with the following:
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
(13) Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope.
(14) We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.
(15) According to the Lord’s own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep.
(16) For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.
(17) After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.
(18) Therefore encourage each other with these words.
Feelings of joy, or happiness, are not always attainable in this life, such as in those moments when you receive horrible news, suffer pain, etc. Like May-Treanor and Walsh, we are now in the competition, and must keep our minds on the goal of winning gold. The only way out of a dark tunnel is to keep moving, and the best motivation to keep moving is to see the proverbial “light” at the end. For us, that light is Jesus, and the future glory he gained for us. Knowing that the joy of hope energized Jesus to walk the full length of the valley of human need and conquer death can help us attain the mind set of the Apostle Paul, as evidenced in the following verses:
(12) Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.
(13) Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead,
(14) I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
Practice joy. Study the Word of God to know what lies in store. God did not leave us with a nebulous idea of our floating around in “heaven.” Rather, we will partake of Christ’s Millennial Kingdom, with food, animals, and people, including those we have lost, who we will hold and laugh with again! On a personal note, I’ve often thought how strange it will be to see my grandmother, not as the old woman I knew, but as a young woman who in her youth looked much like me. I think that’s cool. Drink deeply of God’s Hope, seeing the joy before you, and you will find the motivation to persevere through whatever circumstances you face.
Psalm 16:11 (KJV)
Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.