“I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete” – John 15:11
“In the fog” I would rather shut down than seek any kind of relational connection or constructive activity. It doesn’t mean that I always do. Most of the time I choose to be quite productive, relationally connected even intimate, and creative. I choose to do these things out of loyalty, duty, character, and even fear and those are the wrong motivators. When given a chance I choose to shut down. Not really resting or preparing for what’s next, but just “disconnect”.
I know some people would tell me, “you just need to slow down,” “get some exercise,” or “make your quiet time a priority.” All of which is good advice, but I think I’m seeking more than a few helpful hints or techniques to get by. I want out of the fog all together. I want complete joy. The kind of complete joy Jesus told us we can have (John 15:11). I remember an old Vacation Bible School song –
I’ve got the Joy Joy Joy Joy
down in my heart (where)
down in my heart (where)
I’ve go the Joy Joy Joy Joy
down in my heart
down in my heart to stay!
That’s what I’m looking for and it is hard to find in the fog.
John 15:1-11 has 3 precursors to complete joy; three things Jesus told us that we lead to complete joy.
Abide in Him
Abide in His Word
Abide in His love
What does it mean to “abide”? It means to stay, remain, tarry, lodge, and/or wait. It is a verb, an active verb, which means it requires action, activity, and energy. As a verb it is an oxymoron of sorts in that it is the activity of staying, remaining, tarrying, lodging, and/or waiting. It is in the imperative tense, which means it is a command. The command abide is followed by “in me” or in Jesus. We know Jesus is not a place. He is a person. He is God. So abiding means to find our being, our purpose, our contentment, our vitality, our validity, our worth . . . in Jesus. If abiding in Jesus is going to complete my joy then simply tweaking my life with more exercise, quiet time, or healthy diet isn’t going to cut it. Reorienting my finances, time management techniques, and getting eight hours of sleep isn’t going to fulfill my life.
The other thing I noticed is that joy, despite my ranting earlier, is not the goal. Jesus is the goal. Complete joy is the byproduct of abiding in Jesus. Complete joy is a benefit rather than the end result. Abiding in Jesus is deep relational intimacy and the result is complete Jesus joy.
Complete joy is a natural condition when we abide in Jesus. it happens organically. Joy is our emotional and relational orientation abiding in Jesus. Defogging practice #1 – abide in Jesus. If I stop there, I have already derailed myself. Most books I read start off good. I resonate with where the author is going. The problem is about 4 chapters in or even after I completed the book there is no real world practice. No I’m not in search of 12 step process to relational bliss or abiding, but I do want handles and footholds.
There are 2 such handles and footholds I want to talk about. The first is – abiding is something that is fiercely fought for in life. The numbing things of life are the enemies of abiding. Anything we use to numb ourselves whether it is TV, alcohol, shopping, hobbies, or food get in the way of abiding. The first step is the discipline of warring against our numbing agents. The best way to do that is to fast them, give them up for a time – cold turkey – and replace that time with Jesus. It is much easier to run to the things that numb us, but there is no joy or rest in them when you are in the fog. Like I said earlier if tweaking was all I needed then I wouldn’t be in the fog. The fog takes drastic measures to dissipate. Fight against the numbing agents you are addicted to that you may abide in Jesus.
The second step is that abiding is not the same as prayer, but prayer is defiantly a part of abiding. Prayer, journaling, and meditation on Scripture are a large part of abiding. But abiding is not simply spending more time in prayer or adding journaling to your prayer life. If you are giving Jesus an hour of prayer giving Him an additional hour is not abiding in him because there are 22 hours left in the day. Abiding is an all day experience, not a few hours to fuel the rest of the day. Brother Lawrence, Practicing the Presence of God, says this, “That in order to form a habit of conversing with GOD continually, and referring all we do to Him; we must at first apply to Him with some diligence”
In other words abiding is going to take discipline at first. Colossians 3:17+23 tell us to put Jesus at the center of everything by doing everything as unto the Lord. No don’t rush off to the Bible bookstore to get yourself a WWJD bracelet. Do constantly remind yourself that God is present and at work in the every moment of life even the mundane and mediocre. Do have an all day conversation with Jesus looking for what He is doing and asking how you can participate. Give thanks in all circumstances.
The first steps of abiding require discipline, fierce and resolute discipline. If you are like me, you are going to fail. When you do and you realize you have habitually chosen the numbing agent go to your journal and write what happen. Ask God to forgive you and forgive yourself. Remember there is no joy in those things when you are in the fog and you are in fight. It takes the Son to dissipate the fog. Let me leave you with some hope and give you the full Brother Lawrence quote:
“That in order to form a habit of conversing with GOD continually, and referring all we do to Him; we must at first apply to Him with some diligence: but that after a little care we should find His love inwardly excite us to it without any difficulty.”