By the time this post gets published, I will have likely had a baby.
Oh God, please let that be true.
But today, as I sit at my computer with my feet up on the desk, I’m 8 months along and feeling huge and uncomfortable. I have to go to the bathroom all the live-long day. Everything makes me cry. Bending over requires a fully thought out getting-back-up strategy.
Don’t get me wrong. I wanted this pregnancy, celebrated at each happy milestone as the months have progressed, can’t wait to add another little life to our family.
But today? I’m done. D to the O to the N to the E. As in get this guy outta here already.
But no. He’s tucked in tight for a little while longer. And my job is to persevere until this season is finished.
Truth be told, most of life is like this. There are seasons and jobs and sometimes even people we’d like to be done with. But often, we have to wait until the time comes, hanging in there to the finish. The thing I’m trying to remember this week, swollen ankles and all, is how God offers joy and peace in the middle of it.
I like Kay Warren’s definition from her book – Choose Joy Because Happiness is not Enough.
Joy is the settled assurance God controls all the details of my life. The quiet confidence that ultimately everything is going to be alright. The determined choice to praise God in every situation.
Paul knew this. He wrote the book of Philippians, essentially a treatise on joyful living in community, from his prison cell. In chains and unable to make choices about his life and freedom, he nonetheless expresses deep joy in Christ and exhorts the Philippians to do the same.
We’ve all seen examples of this in our life, people who face death, disappointment, loss, uncertainty with a steady gaze toward Jesus. There can be joy, even in grief and trials, when we choose to trust a God whom Scripture tells us is immensely trustworthy. On our worst days we still have the best hope. That’s where joy comes from.
Peace is similar. It is a result of trusting God. But whereas joy comes when we trust our lives to a big God who holds the whole world in His hands, peace comes from choosing to rest in Him in the middle of the storm.
To say it differently, joy comes from looking up from our circumstances and remembering God is at work. Peace comes when we look over and see God is with us in the middle of our circumstances. His presence offers comfort only He can bring.
Here’s an example from my real life this week. After a long day with two busy boys, dragging around my giant belly, and trying to keep things somewhat orderly while not passing out in our not-air conditioned house, I made dinner.
While I stood at the counter chopping grapes and walnuts for chicken salad I looked up and noticed a picture on the wall. It’s a picture that’s always there, a snapshot of my little family that I’ve looked at 100 times before. But seeing it there reminded me of what all this current waiting is for – the tiredness, the mess, the dirty hair and peanut butter stained shirt, the yelling from the other room, this is an answer to prayer.
This is my family. This is what I begged God for and looking at that snapshot filled my heart with joy.
A few minutes later, Chris walked in the door. He took off his shoes, dropped his bag, hugged the boys while breaking up some kind of fight I was only vaguely aware of and then came into the kitchen where I was getting out plates and silverware.
“Hey you,” he said, (“You” is our most frequent term of endearment) and then leaned in to give me a kiss. And as he did, I felt myself relax. Because if Chris is home then my partner’s there, I can enjoy him. And my load gets lighter because not every little thing that’s going on in our house is my responsibility anymore. He shares the responsibilities with me, even taking them from me sometimes. And when he’s there, usually, life just gets better.
That’s peace. Joy is persevering in our circumstances, knowing that we are part of God’s bigger story – and it’s a good one. Peace is acknowledging His presence with us right in the moment where we need Him and learning to experience the rest that comes from trusting Him.
Peace is a rest that comes from being cared for. To experience peace, we have to truly believe 1 Peter 5:7 which says –
Cast all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.
If we want to know joy, allow the Holy Spirit to remind and teach us again that God really is in control, working all things together for our good. And if we want to know peace, we have to be willing to rest from our efforts to solve our own problems, giving our cares to God and finding peace in His presence with us.
Especially when you have a while to go until you finish.
This post originally appeared at Middle Places.