“ Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it. I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the desert.” Isaiah 43: 18-19
Past hurts are one of the biggest obstacles to being free to have joy. While working as a Youth Worker at a juvenile court facility I brought a group of girls ages 9 to 14 to a lake resort where there was camping, fishing, campfires, great food, miniature golf, swimming, and boating. I asked a group of girls, “When was the last time you felt joy?”
My eight-year-old daughter Debi answered, “I feel joy every day.”
The girls from the court had a different response. “I don’t know what joy is,” said ten-year-old Kathy. “I don’t think I have ever had it.”
“I haven’t felt joy since my uncle raped me three years ago,” said a 13-year-old.
“I have never felt joy,” another 13-year old that had been in foster care for 2 years said.
“I can remember my dad trying to flush my head down a toilet. He used to beat me until I lost consciousness,” a 14-year-old girl said. “I haven’t had joy since then.”
They were bound by memories of abuse and rejection
The children at the Juvenile Court were not free to experience joy. They were bound by memories of abuse and rejection. This world had robbed them of the freedom every child has the right to experience.
As I let the girls share their hurts and trauma they were able to release the pain of the past. We all have past hurts that can rob us of present joy. The Holy Spirit is within us giving us new hope every day telling us to forget the former things. We don’t need to dwell on the past. We can know with God’s spirit within us we can have hope for the future and healing for the past.
When I was a child of around four years old I fell while going down an escalator. To this day I am still very careful when going on an escalator, particularly when I have children with me. But I don’t dwell on my fear. It is not something I worry or meditate on. I am simply cautious.
We learn from our past. An abused child may learn how not to treat children, do drugs or alcohol. But the greatest thing God does for us is in healing our past. There is not a person on this earth that has not experienced past hurts. Jesus said, “I came to heal the brokenhearted and set the captive free.”
Karen, a sixteen-year-old girl who came to my court facility to get free from the pimp who promised to kill her if she tried to leave. At the age of 12 she was kicked out of her home. A pimp talked her into working for him. “If you could do anything, what would you want to do?” I asked her.
It’s Too Late for Me…
“It is too late for me,” she told me. “I am a tramp and a whore.”
Over the following weeks, I helped her see that the little girl who was horribly abused was a victim, but she was no longer a victim. She gave her life and past to Christ asking for the Holy Spirit to fill her. This did not mean she totally forgot her past. God used her past to help others. The last time I talked to Karen, she had just graduated from the University of Texas and planned to be a counselor. “I am going to help children who are abused as I was,” she told me.
Today Karen has joy every day. Her joy is not from her past. It is from the God who released her from a childhood of abuse and rejection.
God takes our hurts and turns them into blessings. He may not change those who have hurt us, but He causes all things to work for our good. No matter what our past God will bring rivers to the desert and streams to the wasteland.
Can you think of a past experience that has given you abilities, talents, and purpose? Is there a past hurt you can give to God asking Him to fill that emptiness with His joy?
Joy in Troubled Times CHALLENGE
Over the coming days, I want to inspire and challenge you to make a choice each morning to be more joyful. Here’s why I decided to create this challenge: Because joy is a choice, and a choice we make every single day. I want to challenge you to make it a habit.
Changing our habits and how we approach life requires time and daily, conscious decisions. That’s where the challenge comes into play. When you participate in the challenge, you will receive a daily reminder via email to visit this blog, read an inspiring article, and complete a short reflection. When you complete the challenge, you will have formed new habits, new ways of thinking, and new ways to look at situations in life as they unfold. With a little shift in thinking and perception, you can have a more joyful and fulfilling life. I hope this challenge will help you get there.
My Challenge to You Today = Join the Joy in Troubled Times Challenge today!
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