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Joy is a Learned and Practiced Response Way # 17

iPhoto Library sweet Joel

Joel, my lego man, now composer.

Way # 17

We choose to be joyful even when we feel like complaining. 

Memory Verse:

“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near.” Phillippians 4:4-5

Many years ago, when Joel, (my wonderful composer son), was a little boy, he played legos for hours a day. He would design elaborate cars, towns, houses, roadways, playgrounds–whatever he could imagine. We all admired his skill. When he was 9 years old, he worked for months and months on a town that became an elaborate creation, around 5 feet wide. On top of this he placed some of his best car designs. We all marveled at each stage of development of his wonderful creation.

One day we hosted a new family for lunch. When Joel took the boy his age back to his room to play, the little boy rushed into the room and began hitting and destroying the whole of Joel’s creation before we could pull him away. The devastation was complete and broke the hearts of our whole family as we had been bragging on his enormous Lego city for months.

The little boy’s mama said, “Oh well, boys will be boys!”

Joel was heart broken and seemed to have a cloud around him for several days. As a child I used to think Joel was a whiner, but time had taught me that he had a very strong sense of justice.  I learned that if I sat down with him, eye to eye, and talked to him about how he was feeling, he would open his heart, reveal what was bothering him, and then he would not whine any more. Sympathy was what he desired.

On this particular week, I went into his room with him and sat down on the carpet floor. We looked at the demolished legos, and I held one in my hand. “Joel, I can’t even imagine how bad this made you feel. I would be so hurt. What bothered you the most?”

“It was the injustice of it all. He had no right to be so destructive. I had never done anything to him. It took me almost a year to build all of these pieces. I just thought it was so unfair,”Joel ended with a sigh.

“I so understand and want you to know how very, very sorry I am. It was unkind and unjust.”

Then I prayed with him and blessed him.

That night, he said, “Mama, I think I can be strong now and build a whole new city. I just wanted someone to listen to me and to understand. Thanks, Mama.”

And off he went outdoors to play with the other kids.

Dealing with Disappointments

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Life is a constant challenge, every day, all the time. Things quit working, someone makes a mess, a Christian friend offends us or rejects us, life just isn’t fair.

Jesus said, as a warning to us, as an instruction of how the world would be, “In this world, you have tribulation.”

Tribulation can also be translated, “great stress.” He forewarned us about what a fallen world would bring.

But what can make it worse is children and adults who whine and complain all the time and never learn to walk within the realities of a fallen world. When we have tribulation of any kind, Jesus admonishes us to “Take courage.”

Have courage, change your attitude from hurt to brave, from overwhelmed to “I can move through this with God’s grace.”

The habit of whining and complaining turns quickly into nagging and an attitude of self-absorption–which destroys hope, light and beauty. God is so clear about how he felt about the complaining of the Israelites. It led them to disbelief.

They wandered in the desert for 40 years because of their complaining hearts and disbelief. This story is a great warning to our children as we are teaching the this way. When we choose not to practice trusting God, turning our hearts to faith and thankfulness that we are not alone, we are prone to wander in wilderness in our lives.

It is not wrong to be sad or depressed because of a tragedy, because God is the one who supplied our ability to have emotions. We need and long for people who will sympathize with us, we need to have comfort for pain, brokenness, injustices in life. God wants to comfort us and we heal more quickly if we have someone who will help bear our burdens. For my sweet boy, this was a tragedy.

But for Joel to become emotionally healthy and strong, I had to help him learn not to stay in the complaining/whining place but to learn to move to an attitude of gratitude. “God will comfort me. God will help me grow stronger. God is just. He understands. He is with me.”

The past year, I have been reading lots of books dealing with healthy relationships and learning to recognize safe people–those that can be trusted to act in a healthy way and to grow in relational strength. One of the “unsafe” people is the one who blames everyone, who sees herself as a victim, and who never takes responsibility for the problems of life and never admits the consequences of her own foolish choices. Blaming others or God keeps one in the wilderness.

There is a point when staying in a place of blaming, complaining and being a victim becomes an unhealthy pattern and view of life.

But as moms, as women, we must understand that a habit of always complaining comes from choosing to see ourselves as victims and not trusting God with the difficulties of our lives.

Scripture tells us, “This is the day the Lord has made, we will rejoice, (as an act of our will), and be glad in it. 

How essential it is that we move from complaint to committing our difficulties and issues into the hands of God so that our children, our friends, will learn how to do that when they face stress. This includes little issues as well as big. We have the opportunity to work with our children in the hard or unfair situations, and to model to others in our own unfair situations, to help them to learn to be strong–to mount up over their difficulties. This is what character training is all about–helping our children to become stronger one day at a time.

We choose to be joyful–even when we feel like complaining.

The past couple of  years, I have watched a couple of my oldest children seeking scripture over and over again to become a peacemaker, to choose to be gentle, to choose to forgive, to actively trust God when unfair circumstances came along.

I have been amazed watching them choose to be faithful because scripture and training was the foundation of their hearts. And then I have been amazed once again at the results of their pathway of obedience–peace!

I wish I could give them and myself a “G” rated life where everything was fair and all people were healthy and loving. But that is not reality.

Instead, teaching how to love, how to be joyful as a choice, is what shows the reality of God’s spirit in our own lives and teaches our children tools that will help them to be strong when they encounter inevitable trials as they become adults.

Will-training is something I have written about many times. It is our will that chooses to have faith in God, that learns how to persevere under trial, that chooses to love the unlovely, that shows generosity to the needy. The will to obey God is what makes heroes, strong marriages, healthy relationships, legacies of faithfulness.

As we gently enter in to the recesses of our children’s hearts and understand their feelings, we can then teach them to learn to be strong inside, but practicing a grateful heart, with an understanding that our heart’s attitudes are the place where real strength and spirituality take place. Gentleness and patience leads our children to embrace these attitudes.

We speak forward into their lives, into what they will become.

“You are becoming so strong inside–just like a hero who saves people in a scary battle. Florence Nightingale saved lives by taking care of the wounded amidst a terrible war. I believe God will use you to help many because you are learning to become strong inside, to choose to be joyful when life is hard and you are a great blessing of grace to us all.”

This week, look at your own heart. Is it joyful? Are you modeling to your children an uncomplaining spirit? We are the picture of what our children will really learn as we train them.

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