Finding Joy In The wilderness

The perspective of wanderers.

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Don’t we often feel like we are walking through a wilderness?

We struggle to overcome it or to seek out any means to escape it.  We put our hopes in other people and other things. The desperate wandering can be like a wild bear is chasing us or even slowly eating us alive.

The gloom over us hides some of the sun’s glory, but it begins to dissipate as we trust the Lord more and more.  Yet, because we’re still on our way home, we have to learn to praise the Lord and rest in Him with the bear all around us. It’s a rocky journey, but Philippians reminds us that – for those who follow Christ by faith in Him – joy is not merely a nice feeling that might come.  Joy is a peaceful confidence and growing excitement in the real relationship God has initiated with undeserving people and secured for them because of Christ. 

  • Contentment, Peace, Joy, Plenty, and Hunger – 2:14-16, 4:10-13, 3:1, 4:4 
  • God is sovereign – 1:12 & 29,  3:21, 4:19
  • Fellowship with Christ NOW is precious – 3:8

Dr. Ed Welch of the Christian Counsel and Education Foundation (CCEF) tells us that “We settle for too little. It is so easy to set the bar at mere obedience. Do right. Do right in the midst of temptations. Do right in suffering. These are certainly good, but when we know Jesus, we know there is more—we know there is joy.”

Dr. David Powlison of CCEF agrees. “Jesus is a most sympathetic friend, fellow sufferer, and Savior. He has walked a hard road. He has felt his own anguish and crushing pain (Isaiah 53). He understands. He is compassionate toward you. By the comfort of his presence and sympathy, he intends to draw you out and draw you to Himself.” 

Consider some of the following passages that acknowledge the wilderness and call us to rest in Christ alone.

1 Peter 4:13 ESV – But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.

James 1:2-4 ESV – Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

Psalm 34:18 ESV – The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.

The ideas below could stand alone or easily fit into a themed program for Christmas, Easter, or Thanksgiving.

Create a large map to plot Paul’s journeys of suffering.
Break into Bible study classes and assign certain parts
of Paul’s journeys to research.

  • What types of suffering did he experience?
  • Why did Paul continue to follow Christ even though he knew so much suffering was coming?
  • What were some of the practical ways God comforted Paul in his sufferings?
  • How did Paul respond?  Be specific.

Find out more about Paul’s journeys Here

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Use Paul David Tripp’s  “How Thankful Are you?”

  • Divide into small groups
  • Take the Assessment at the end of the article
  • Discuss your answers with your small group

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Printable Emergency Journal Entries

Check out these Journal entry topics by Christi Zimmerman for perspective…

Find more HERE

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Make Survival Kits from God

Invite a Chaplain who follows Christ in holiness by faith in Him to speak about Paul’s joy in Philippians or similar topics like…

  • The differences between happiness and joy
  • How suffering develops a humble dependence on God
  • Suffering displays God’s strength through our weakness
  • Undeserved Love
  • Suffering gives us an eternal perspective
  • Suffering reminds us that this is not our home

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Joy is a prominent theme in traditional Christian hymns because most were written in times of suffering.  Invite a few ladies from your PWOC to research and speak about the history and meaning of a few such classic and modern hymns.  Sing some of the hymns between the ladies’ talks, and discuss the following.

  • How did these Christ followers find joy in the Lord through their struggles?
  • Where did their joy come from?
  • What can we understand about our God from their responses in these hymns?

Songs such as these…

You might find others in these resources….
Tim Challies has blogged several hymn histories online.
You can find more hymn histories at sermonwriter.com
Find more hymn stories at hymnstories.org

Joy Survival Baskets – Partner up with a buddy or have your whole Bible study class create “Joy Baskets” at your PWOC to give away. Make a requirement to have your name in the hat.  It could be something as easy as memorizing this year’s theme verse.

How To Make A Devotional Basket by Lillian Stevens
Create Your Own Bible Study Basket – Equipping God Women
Thanksgiving Baskets if it’s that time of year.
Prayer Baskets

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Gratitude/Blessings/Prayer Jars – Decorate Jars to place in spots where you pray to help you remember the blessings the Lord has given you, the prayers that are hard to remember or have a joyful perspective, and gratitude for all He has done.  Ladies can write out encouraging scriptures to add to other ladies jars.

Add scripture to these Gratitude Jars – Craft Your Happiness
Year Of Joyful Memories Jar – A Heart Filled Home

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Good questions to build on with Unloading the Baggage

  • Make a quick list of some of the problems and conflicts that have surfaced in your life. How much of your time and energy is spent in dealing with these issues?
  • How has your emotional and spiritual health been affected by the weight of these issues? How about your physical health?
  • What fears surface when you think about giving up control of those situations? Why is it tempting to hang on to them?
  • Take a few minutes in prayer to release those situations, one by one, to God’s control. Then humbly ask the Lord to fill you with His truth and wisdom.
  • As you move through the rest of your day, wait on the Lord. Instead of rushing ahead to your own solutions for each situation, practice the skill of waiting for Him to give you direction.

Helpful Resources

Raising The Bar On Joy – Ed Welch, CCEF
The Hard Pairing Of Suffering and Joy – Ed Welch, CCEF
Contagious Joy – Max Lucado
How Thankful Are You? – Paul David Tripp

When Suffering Enters Your Door – Paul David Tripp
7 things You Need To Know On Joy – by Robert Driskell
5 Truths About Christian Suffering – Desiringgod.org
What Does The Bible Say About Joy – joypursued.com

This video is from 2011.  It’s 2019 and he is still preaching!