Finding Joy // 尋找喜樂
Our editor Penny shares about her breakthrough in faith and how it changed her view of God forever. WitnessHK編輯Penny分享她在信仰上的突破，及這經歷如何徹底改變她和神之間的關係。
I’ve been a Christian for as long as I can remember. But my walk with God wasn’t always joyful.
I used to get irritated when people burst out into praise randomly. Irritated—and a bit envious, too. How could they praise God so mindlessly? How did they know those were blessings and not coincidences? These feelings would nag at me, but still I went along with the motions of my Christian life. It was, after all, the only lifestyle I knew. So I went to church, attended fellowship, led Bible studies, did my devotionals…but only when I’d slacked too long and guilt got the better of me.
This all changed three years ago.
Three years ago, a conversation I had with a spiritual mentor—my aunt—touched off a radical transformation in my relationship with God. I’d just flown back to Hong Kong after living a few years overseas, and we were catching up over dinner. Because my aunt’s a seminary professor, I brought along a bunch of spiritual questions. She entertained me a bit, and then, perhaps sensing something deeper to my doubts, turned the questioning around. “Do you remember the times you experienced God?” she asked me.
Silly question to ask a long-time Christian, right? Usually I would have a slate of answers ready: God’s blessed me with a loving family. Good friends. Getting into a good school. Getting into the major of my choice.
But that night, I found myself racking my brains and drawing a blank. I couldn’t in good faith give any answer and mean it. The realization rocked me. In that instant, a deluge of thoughts washed over me: What’s this faith I’ve been practicing for twenty-odd years? If I was never really praying through my important life decisions with God, what have I been doing? My life’s a fraud. Surely God’s worked in my life; surely I can think of one instance…right?
I was sitting there, stunned, as my aunt continued to share about her walk with Christ. It was intimate: She rejoiced with Him on the good days. She confided in Him and prayed through the down days. I realized that on a personal level, that kind of intimacy was an utterly alien notion to me.
My aunt sent me home with this advice that night: Give your devos a rest. No Bible studies. Just pray, and ask God to show you His love for you.
So I did. It turned out to be a freeing piece of advice. For the first time in my life, I stopped posturing and pretending before God. I stopped censoring my thoughts and molding them to fit my idea of holiness. I let loose my defiance. And God and I had some really honest conversations which we hadn’t had in a long time. Like, about how angry and disappointed I was with Him. He knew there were issues I’d been struggling with for years. I felt He was unreasonable, unmerciful, unloving—everything I’d been taught He wasn’t—for not healing me the way I wanted. “I’ve tried hard to be a good Christian, I protested, and look where that’s gotten me; believing in You is anything but joyful.” I was angry, and then depressed because God was obviously against helping me where I was helpless. Sure, I believed Jesus walked in human history, died for my sins, all that stuff that’d been drilled into my head from childhood. But I didn’t believe God really loved me. I was tired of doing the right thing when obedience didn’t pay dividends.
That was when I saw what I’d placed my faith in. It wasn’t in God. In the achievement-driven environment I grew up in, I’d turned faith into another category I had to excel in. And now, because by all appearances my life had spiraled out of my control and was far from the picture of perfection I’d dreamed of constructing for myself, my faith crumpled. In truth, I hadn’t known the Lord. I hadn’t known true obedience. In Oswald Chamber’s words, I hadn’t known God as a “living factor in the planning of [my life]“. I’d merely been doing things my way, and then learned to give God some nominal credit for my worldly successes.
Throughout my Christian life I’d been happy, and in a twisted way, even proud, to call myself a sinner—but only in theory. When I demanded God for evidence of His love, He opened my eyes to the ugly reality of sin in my life. I saw pride, cynicism, selfishness, self-righteousness, and a lack of love in my life. I felt I was taken into darker depths than ever. But instead of rebuking me, God extended His loving, grace-filled invitation. He turned my gaze to the cross, and said, My love is here for you, complete, unconditional, irrevocable, all-satisfying. Will you accept it? I experienced the Gospel afresh.
God owed me nothing. He’d already given me everything.
I started reading the Bible again with new eyes. I rediscovered a God who doesn’t distance Himself from His people’s troubles. I saw a God who allows life’s disappointments—consequences of a fallen world—to bring about refining in His beloved ones. Nowhere does He “magic wand” away frustrations and trials, but for His children, God promises His good purposes will always prevail. A new joy crept its way into my Bible study and prayer time—I knew I could expect an organic conversation with a living God. I could go to Him with my messiest, “ungodliest” thoughts and depend upon finding peace.
The psalmist says, “Taste and see that the Lord is good.” I once took this verse to God and challenged Him to prove it true. He did. What a wonderful invitation the psalmist gives us, and with what assurance! I want to live every day with this expectation to know God’s goodness. His joy is ours in this very life.
我以往會因為別人突然隨意地讚美主而感到煩厭。煩厭 – 以及有一點嫉妒。他們怎麼可以那麼盲目地讚美主？他們怎會知道那些是恩典，而不是巧合？這種感覺很惱人，但我繼續隨波續流地做著基督徒生活中所應做的事。 畢竟，那是我唯一知道的生活模式。我去教會、參加團契、帶領聖經研讀、靈修……都只因為我鬆散了太久，而且罪惡感成為我的動力。
三年前，我跟我的屬靈導師 – 我的阿姨 – 的一次對話令我與神的關係引發起激進的改變。在海外住了幾年的我剛剛回港，我們在晚飯時間聊天。因為我的阿姨是一位神學研究所的教授，所以我問了一大堆屬靈的問題。她回答著我的問題，然後，好像突然感覺到我的疑惑有著更深層次的問題，她反過來向我提出提問。她問：“你記得你經歷神的那些時候嗎？”
我開始用我新的眼睛重新閱讀聖經。我再次發現神不會因為祂兒女的麻煩而遠離他們。我看到神利用人生帶來的失望（世界墮落的後果）去磨練祂所愛的人。祂不會把懊惱和考驗“變走”，但祂對祂兒女所應許的美善用意一定會實現。一股新的喜樂注入了我的聖經研讀以及祈禱時間 – 我知道我可以期望和活著的真神有著真實的對話。我可以把我最混亂、最“不聖潔”的想法帶到祂的跟前，並依賴著從祂那裡能找到的平安。
Image credit: Flickr/Tigr