I recently received an encouraging letter from a pastor in Florida:
If I understand correctly, you’ve also experienced a debilitating concussion. My concussion resulted from a fall from a ladder, which resulted in 6 years of dizziness and bleeding on the brain. Eventually, I had to step down as a pastor due to nearly passing out with every sermon. My convalescence lasted 7 years, 5 of which I was able to work from home in sales. Now I am back in the pulpit preaching every week.”
I also experienced a concussion and traumatic brain injury last fall. It has been an “interesting” year because of it, and then the new year of 2021 started out with our entire family catching the dreaded Covid. I admit to feeling discouraged at times!
The pastor’s letter came at just the time I needed it. He filled his note with encouragement from Scripture and practical ideas to help in my healing journey.
But one part of the note made me feel frustrated at first, if I am very honest. He wrote:
Here’s what I’ve learned. Spiritually, the principles in James 1:2-8 are helpful and hopeful. Each trial (testing) has a purpose and a specific length. The purpose is to bring us to maturity (not lacking anything spiritually) and the specific length depends on how long it takes to bring about those purposes. As I understand it, we cannot speed up the time it takes (like growing up) but we can delay it. And that’s why we must continually ask for wisdom (James 1:5) on how to face the trial in such a way as to bring about God’s purposes (speedily). In the meantime, “Count it all Joy.” Failing to count it all joy is one of the delay factors. Otherwise, we tend to become double minded as James teaches.
Count it all joy? I know what the Bible says, and I had to acknowledge that he was telling it to me correctly. But I didn’t feel joyful, and his words honestly made me feel grumpy.
I pondered it for several days, in fact, trying to find something to feel joyful about in all of the circumstances of the past months. I should also point out that the day I received his letter, I was aching from the fever of Covid, and coughing, and just feeling plain sick.
Father, I can thank you for all You do. I can accept that You know best. I can trust You to bring us through this trial. But joy?! How can I rejoice in this?
At the beginning of this week, I reread the pastor’s letter and noticed something else:
Physically, here is what I have learned. A physical therapist told me, “Listen to your body; it can tell you more than I can.” And so I did. I discovered that pills were of limited benefit (now and then), but that physical exercise is of great benefit. I learned that if a cast is put on your right leg for six weeks because it is broken, and if you exercise your left leg, it will benefit the right leg, so much so that the right leg will not atrophy when the cast is taken off. The benefit of this knowledge is this. If one part of my body (like my neck) is in too much pain to exercise, I keep exercising other parts of my body that are not in pain. Eventually, it pays off.
That made sense to me. I see a neurologist for physical therapy twice a week (except when we had Covid). She prescribes physical exercises for me to do at home. In addition, I have been working through exercises from the book, The Flexible Body, by Roger Frampton. Frampton explains nine one-minute exercises that are designed to physically strengthen one’s body, but he only has you do five exercises a day.
- So on the first day, you do exercises 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.
- On the next day, you do exercises 6, 7, 8, 9, and 1.
- On the third day, you do exercises 2, 3, 4, 5, 6.
- On the fourth day, you do exercises 7, 8, 9, 1, and 2… and so on.
Over the course of a year, the exercises increase in difficulty gradually, but if I’m consistent, I will gain considerable strength.
And the Father spoke quietly to my heart.
I am growing 9 fruits of the Spirit in your life. You might be weak in some of them now, because the pain of the past year is too great, but if you’ll keep exercising all the others, your joy won’t atrophy either. Keep exercising! Eventually, it pays off.
“The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control,” says Galatians 5:22-23.
So I took my exercise calendar off the wall and wrote some new exercises next to the Frampton routine.
- On the first day, study what the Bible says about love.
- On the second day, study what the Bible says about joy.
- On the second day, study what the Bible says about peace… and so on.
I did study joy this week. The Greek word chara is translated as simchah in the Hebrew Bible (Strong’s 8057). It means rejoicing, just as I expected. It is a state of happiness, a spontaneous expression of excitement and cheer.
Its first use in the Scriptures is in Genesis 31:27, where Laban says he wished could have have sent his family away “with joy, and and songs, with timbrel and harp.”
Ahhhhh! I can see the exercise I’m supposed to do, Father! You want me to sing, and to play music on my modern-day timbrel, the piano. That’s how people show they are joyful!
It turns out that music accompanies joy many times in the Bible (such as 1 Samuel 18:6, 1 Kings 1:40, 1 Chronicles 15:16, 2 Chronicles 23:18, 2 Chronicles 29:30, 2 Chronicles 30:21, Nehemiah 12:27, Psalm 100:2, for just a small sampling). Other things go with it, too, like feasting, so maybe some chocolate is in order. <wink>
Obedience isn’t about feeling, but rather, it’s about action. My feelings don’t have to be happy, or excited about pain and difficulty. But I can sing and ACT cheerful as I play praise songs on the piano, or if I’m too sick to do that, to listen to music on my phone as I snuggle under a blanket.
And eventually, after maybe a year of strengthening my joy muscles, the feelings will follow.
I must “count it all joy.” Counting isn’t always fun for small children, especially when it increases into difficult kinds like long multiplication and long division. But every day, they exercise their math muscles, until one day, 7 x 8 = 56 feels natural.
So I’m exercising over here. Anyone want to join God’s exercise program? I’ve heard it’s easier with a buddy. 🙂
Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture in this blog post taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.