I used to date a girl we’ll call Gelda. This girl would have curdled milk. She had the ability to suck the life out of any conversation with arrogance, manipulation, or sulking. The funny thing is that when we were dating, I was praying to God that He would bring us closer together, that He would allow us to up our level of commitment (while I was typing that, I had a little gag reflex). Like Garth Brooks, sometimes I thank God for unanswered prayers.
This last Friday night we enjoyed family night in the Howerton home. I heard laughter and squealing upstairs, and suddenly my children came barreling down for our movie night, all jammied up. My daughter, Alex, jumped on my lap and kissed me on the smacker; my wife, Jodie, sat next to me, holding my boys who are mischief incarnate. We were eating popcorn together, and the dog was nowhere to be seen. That’s as close to golden as it gets down here on this fallen planet!
And honestly, I thought to myself, How good is God, that He had this in store for me! There’s Mike, praying for Gelda, and God says no; instead, giving me a Norman Rockwell scene. Because God’s plan is so much better than our plan, we can live with joy. Joy is one of the by-products of being His. He plants it and grows it within us (Galatians 5:22–23).
Happiness is built upon the happenings around us, but joy is built upon the Spirit of God in our lives. The more we are filled and fueled by God’s presence, the more joyfully we will live, because joy is His idea.
Commit this truth to memory: “God invites me into His story.” Write it on a Post-it. Stick it on your dashboard. Staple it to your Schwinn. You are invited into God’s story.
God’s plan for you means a personal journey. It is life on the pinnacles of existence; it is wonder and joy and amazement. It’s a discovery of you tapping into the best and brightest parts of yourself to contribute something to God’s kingdom that only you can contribute. Do we get how good it is to follow hard after God? Do we understand that the highest, fullest, richest life is available in Him?
This is how we see God work in our lives. We simply obey God with thanksgiving and joy. We don’t obey in order to earn God’s love, but we obey because of the incredible love God has shown us. Jesus has proven His love for us. When we obey Him, we reveal our love for Him. Jesus says, “If you love Me, you will keep my commands” (John 14:15).
God has been painting a beautiful masterpiece with your life. As you obey Him, you will see the character that He produced in you: the character of thankfulness, courageous obedience, and joyful living. You will see the emergence of the character of Jesus Christ. You will see the darkest places in your journey have become the relief against which His grace shines. And you will discover that the areas of your struggle and brokenness have become the place of His great victory and your great ministry. Your mess showcases His glory.
Adapted from Glorious Mess: Encountering God’s Relentless Grace for Imperfect People by Mike Howerton (Baker Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group, 2012). Used by permission. All rights to this material are reserved. Material is not to be reproduced, scanned, copied, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without written permission from Baker Publishing Group.
This article originally appeared in the August, 2012 issue of HomeLife. Subscribe