I should be joyful. But I’m not.
At least, I wasn’t this morning.
Every year, we do this great project with our church where we put together food boxes for families in need in our community. I always head it up; and I always experience some form of emotional difficulty.
One year, I gave myself a migraine from stressing out so bad. Another year, I hardly slept for two nights leading up to it. Today is the day we are collecting all the food and packing up the boxes. And I woke up in some kind of weird depressive funk.
I couldn’t even tell you why I felt that way. It made me think of Charlie Brown’s words from “A Charlie Brown Christmas”:
“I think there must be something wrong with me, Linus. Christmas is coming, but I’m not happy. I don’t feel the way I’m supposed to feel.”
That sums it up nicely. I should be SO thrilled that so many people from church and our community are coming together to feed and love families who are suffering. I should be overjoyed at the thought of helping to fill bellies that might otherwise be achy from emptiness. I should be shocked at the privilege of getting to be a conduit of God’s goodness, provision, and grace to others.
And knowing that I should feel that way made me feel even worse.
As I dropped the kids off at school, the song, “Your Love, Oh Lord” by Third Day came on. As I found myself mindlessly singing along,
Your faithfulness stretches to the sky”,
I remembered why we are doing all of this….any of this…life in general.
I pulled into the parking lot and just listened.
“Your justice flows like the ocean’s tide.
And I will lift my voice to worship You, my King.
And I will find my strength in the shadow of Your wings”
I’ve been starting from the wrong place. Like Charlie Brown, I’ve been living, thinking, and acting as if any of this is about me. My talents; by abilities; my shortcomings; my time; my performance.
It’s not about me.
None of it is about me. It’s all about Him. That’s where this song begins…with the very nature of who God is. And that’s where I need to start too.
If we start there, everything else that flows from that place becomes so much more than mere actions and thoughts of the day. It becomes worship. (If you’ve seen “A Charlie Brown Christmas”, you know that Charlie Brown discovers this as well.)
“Your Love, Oh Lord” is based on part of Psalm 36. Interestingly enough, David, the author, does not begin the psalm the way Third Day begins their song. He begins with observations of wickedness and unbelief. He discusses people who have no fear of God and who, therefore, commit evil continually. We need only look to today’s headlines to find evidence of that David’s reality is ours as well.
David then contrasts that wickedness that surrounds him with relief found by meditating on “the glorious attributes of the Lord, and the abundant blessings that come to believers. His philosophy of life was based on an experiential knowledge of the Lord’s loyal love, faithfulness, righteousness, and justice. These attributes are inexhaustible resources for believers.” (taken from The Bible Knowledge Commentary).
Ummm….inexhaustible? I don’t have to worry about it running out? Like my time or energy or intelligence or….
Maybe that’s what I feel. I’m exhausted before this thing even starts. I’m running on empty.
David had experienced firsthand the wickedness of man. He saw it in others and in his own heart. He doesn’t deny this truth in order to try to make himself feel better. Ignoring what’s true never brings anyone any real solace.
What David does changes everything. He tells the whole truth. Yes, it is true that wickedness and evil is found everywhere in this world. And it is also true that God’s lovingkindness extends to the heavens; that His faithfulness reaches to the skies; that we are invited to take refuge in the shadows of His wings and drink our fill of the abundance of His house.
If this is true, there’s only one reason I would be running empty. I’m filling up with the wrong things…mostly myself.
After a little worship session in the car, I came into the church with a different mindset.
“This starts with You, Lord. Your love reaches to the heavens. So I’m going to live in and spread that love with what I do today. Your faithfulness stretches to the sky. So I’m not going to attempt to do any of this day without You; and I’ll remind others that they’re not alone. Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains. So when I mess up, it really doesn’t matter that much. Your righteousness stands strong and covers me. Your justice flows like the ocean’s tide. So I will lift my voice, my hands, my everything to worship You, my King.”
Now, at 1:00pm, that morning feeling of heaviness and dreariness and rush-to-do and what-if-I-can’t is long gone. So many people have come through the door to joyfully bring pancake mix, peanut butter, eggs, cookies, and so much more. Some of them are brand new acquaintances, some are old friends. One old friend brought me lunch. Another brought extra boxes. Some attend our church and some are walking into it for the first time. All brought the same thing in the door with them….joy.
We look around and see (and feel) darkness. But David says that in His light, we see light (Psalm 36:9). In light of all God is, we find the hope, joy, and peace each one of us is desperately searching for.
Praying for you, my friend, that you’d re-start your day right now. Instead of beginning it with “I have to” and “I can’t forget to” and “I’m worried I won’t get around to” and “too much to do” and maybe “I think there’s something wrong with me”, start here. Start with the whole truth.
God, there’s darkness all around me. I can’t help but be affected by it.
Your faithfulness reaches to the skies.
Your righteousness is like the mountains of God;
Your judgment are like a great deep.
O Lord, You preserve man and beast.
How precious is Your lovingkindness, O God!
And te children of men take refuge in the shadow of Your wings.
They drink their fill of the abundance of Your house;
And You give them to drink of the river of Your delights.
For with You is the fountain of life;
In Your light we see light”
And when you see someone living the Charlie Brown life out there, be Linus for them. Give them the whole truth. You never know – they may just end up singing “Hark The Herald Angels Sing” right next to you in church on Christmas Eve.