Yep, those are my car keys. I was attempting to open a package and without much force, the silver part went flying across the room. My spare key was in Florida (blame my parents) so my mom overnighted it to me, but I still had to go to my second job. How was I supposed to drive my car? I figured I’d try to use the broken key. It took a couple of tries and required a lot more effort than usual, but the car cranked! Over the course of the next 24 hours, I was able to turn my car on and off several times using the broken key. It took longer than usual, I had to watch what I was doing, I had to be careful (the black part came completely apart one of the times), but it worked. When my spare key finally arrived, it felt so good to turn the key in the ignition without worrying about steadying my hand so the silver part wouldn’t fall out. The broken key worked, but a key that wasn’t broken was better.
After my dad died, I took a week off, maybe less from school. I got all my assignments done and managed to graduate with a fairly decent grade point average and hopefully helped a few people along the way. I made it through, but I certainly wasn’t whole. I was my broken car key. I worked, I turned on and I turned off but I did not do it with the ease I once knew. It took longer to get things done and I found myself being more careful, afraid my emotions would get the best of me. Too often, we settle for broken keys. We think because we made it through the day, we did good enough. Family and friends check in with us and we list all these things we’ve accomplished, not willing to admit how much of a struggle it was. Or if we do admit it, we’ve accepted it as our life. We’ve decided there is no spare key coming to make life easier.
What if I told you it doesn’t have to be this way? I’ve said this a lot of times in one way or another and I’ll keep saying it: God wants you to live a happy, whole life. Bad times come, but it doesn’t have to be life as you know it. You don’t have to settle for a broken key barely getting the job done. You are deserving of a fully functioning key that doesn’t require much effort. Upgrade your life and get a push start! Just because something is working, doesn’t mean it can’t work better. Pray, go to church, go to therapy, read your bible, take that trip, read that book, take time off, turn off your phone, meet a friend for lunch. Whatever it takes, live life whole.
Luke 17:19 And he said unto him, Arise, go thy way: thy faith hath made thee whole.
When I was considering buying a house, a man who is a second dad to me told me “no matter what happens, count it all joy.” I didn’t fully understand it then, but after I bought my house, it all made sense. Within the first 6 months, I had a break-in, had to get a new roof, had random leaks, a brand new washer that wasn’t working properly, and a list of other things. I was near tears thinking I had made a mistake, but with every incident I remembered to count it all joy. It wasn’t always easy but I continuously told myself that God was still good and this house was still a blessing. What I wanted to call losses, God used them as opportunities to show me that He was for me and more than enough.
Things happen. They inconvenience our lives. They make us sad. They cost money. They’re traumatic. They shake our faith. They’re unexpected. Things happen. But Jesus happened too and it is Him who we must commit to holding on to. If you’re like me, there are times where it literally seems like it’s one thing after another. First, something crazy is happening at work, then it’s church, then it’s family, then it’s the house; everywhere I turn something wrong is happening. After freaking out for a moment (or a little bit longer than that; I’m a work in progress y’all), I tell myself that it’s all working for my good (Romans 8:28). All of it, all the time.
I wouldn’t say, I get overwhelmed easily but once I get to that point, I’m done, done. I finally say “oh I’m not dealing with that. Okay, God, You can do it.” But I’m learning I don’t have to wait until I’m overwhelmed to believe God can handle it. He’s constantly working things out in my favor even when I can’t see it or feel it; He’s for me (Romans 8:31). With every problem that comes up, I know I’ll come out on the other side. My version of victory and God’s version of victory may look different but there WILL be victory.
I’m guilty of crying ‘woe is me,’ but I’ve decided to also be guilty of having a “yet will I praise You’ attitude. Kids tearing my nerves up at work? Yet will I praise You. Thought that relationship was going to work out? Yet will I praise You. Didn’t get the best evaluation? Yet will I praise You. Xfinity can’t seem to fix my internet? Yet will I praise You. Didn’t get that position? Yet will I praise You. Money looking funny? Yet will I praise You. Always and forever will I strive to count it all joy.
James 1:2-4 My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.
I once saw a shirt that had the words be happy crossed out, and underneath it said be holy. Our society places such a high value on doing things that make us happy, we don’t realize that what makes us happy sometimes doesn’t make us whole. It doesn’t push us to be better people. It doesn’t push us closer to God, in fact it has the opposite effect. And if we’re not careful, we’ll find ourselves happy and in hell.
Watching TV makes me very happy. I could sit for hours and watch show after show, and I’m not even talking about a Netflix series; I mean just plain ole TV. It’s one thing to have a lazy day or two, but I take DAYS at a time (don’t judge me lol). As happy as that makes me, by day eight, I usually ask myself “would God be happy with this?” And it’s not as though I feel like I should be out feeding the homeless or going down to the church and tarrying or doing some other “super christian” thing, but how about I just clean up or I do some lesson planning. All of this is part of being a good steward of what God gave me (Matthew 25:21). It’s a part of being holy.
So often we think of being holy as walking around speaking in tongues, fasting day and night, spending countless hours reading our bible. All of those things are good, but what about your conversations with people? What about your conversations with yourself about yourself? What about how you treat people? What about your alone time? What about your down time? The scripture says be holy, for I am holy (1 Peter 1:16). Be holy, not do holy. Because it’s who you are, it should trickle into every part of your life.
Can you be happy and holy? YES, YES, YES!!! The lie the devil has sold us is you have to choose between the two. We choose between good and evil, not between happy and holy. It makes me happy to give to others. It makes me happy to encourage people. It makes me happy to accomplish goals. It makes me happy to go places and experience new cultures. It makes me happy to get dressed up and share a meal with friends. Sure you may enjoy sin in the moment, but you can enjoy pleasing God forever. When we choose God, we always choose happiness, and more specifically, joy. We may not always feel it, but understand that it’s always coming. There were many nights that I sought God for my morning when He said joy would come and it seemed like it would never get there. But I kept choosing God, and morning eventually came.
So it’s not God over happiness, it’s happiness because of God. When faced with the choice of pleasing my flesh or pleasing God, my goal is to choose God every time. It doesn’t always happen, but it’s what I’m always striving for. I’ve decided to start asking myself more consistently if what I’m doing would make God happy, and I encourage you to do the same. And your answer should be based in your knowledge and faith in God, not what everyone else is doing. Would God be happy with me scrolling through social media for two hours? Would God be happy with me getting drunk tonight? Would God be happy with me talking like this? Would God be happy with me eating this? Would God be happy with me having sex with this person? Would God be happy with me in this career? Would God be happy? Because if it makes God happy, in the end, I’ll be happy.
And just as I stated before, it’s not about always doing. God told us to rest and enjoy the fruit of our labor (Ecclesiastes 5:19-20). We just have to remember that even in our enjoying, we want God to get the pleasure out of our lives. We want to choose Him.
It brings tears to my eyes just thinking about how I upset I was with God about my dad dying. I recently went through my Instagram page and scrolled through the years. I could see how hard I was trying to be happy, to live happy. I was being blessed in different areas of my life, but this loss was a thorn in my side and no matter how many times I went to God about it, it remained there. For me the thorn was the loss of my father but for you it could be a bad break-up, losing your job, or a physical ailment. No matter what you do, you just can’t seem to recover. You feel stuck in a prison of pain and God doesn’t seem to care. Little did I know, earthquakes come after a midnight praise.
Acts 16:40-60 tells the story of Paul and Silas and how having done nothing wrong they were beaten and thrown into prison. It does not say how long they were in prison but when midnight came they prayed and praised God. In the midst of their praise, there was an earthquake and the shackles that had them bound were broken and the door of the prison was opened. Despite how long you have been suffering and how beaten down you may feel, when your midnight comes and your prayer and praises have went forth, there will be an earthquake and you will be free.
My midnight came actually right after my church’s watch night service, going into 2017 when my goddaughter’s mom asked me if I had any godchildren. At that point I did not and I had no idea God would use my goddaughter as my earthquake. Despite how I felt prior to that moment, I trusted God. I didn’t know when He was going to bring me out or how but I believed He would. And through my prayers and praise, He did.
I had shed so many tears out of anger and sadness and frustration over my father’s loss, but when my earthquake came I found myself crying out of gratitude and happiness. Her staring at me, her laughing, her smiling, her rubbing my face, her talking, her eating solid foods, her spitting solid foods into my hand, her learning how to walk, just her. When you have been as sad as I have been, you cherish these moments no matter how insignificant they seem. My goddaughter has shown me that if I’m capable of experiencing such a profound level of hurt, I am also capable of experiencing that same level of joy. I am forever grateful to her parents.
Those who know me well will tell you I’m a gangsta (yes with an a, don’t debate me), so I’m not very expressive, but that changed last year. I’m still not walking around telling everyone I love them and hugging people (a post for another day), but I smile bigger and laugh louder and tell people how grateful I am for their presence in my life. I don’t think there was anything I could do to get to this place any faster. You can’t speed up time but you can take God at His Word. He said my mourning would turn into dancing (Psalms 30:11). He said joy came in the morning (Psalms 30:5). He said His strength is made perfect in my weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). And He is a God that cannot lie (Numbers 23:19).
My goddaughter was my earthquake. Maybe your earthquake will be a new relationship, a friendship, a weekday service, a scripture, a child, or simply a whisper from God. Midnight is coming, go ahead and praise Him, because I assure you an earthquake will follow.
“And suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken: and immediately all the doors were opened, and every one’s bands were loosed.” Acts 16:26