Monday Message From Pastor Andrew on JOY

18And she said, “Let your servant find favor in your sight.”  Then the woman went to her quarters, ate and drank with her husband, and her countenance was sad no longer.
1 Samuel 1:18
After church one Sunday, a visitor to the church asked me to pray that he might find a wife.  I told him that I would be happy to pray for him but likely it was not as simple as that.  To his puzzled expression, I told him that in addition to praying for a wife, we should pray that he might know God’s blessing now.
“Look,” I explained.  “It isn’t likely that God is going to give you a wife this afternoon.  That kind of thing takes time to happen.  I am pretty sure that God wants you to find joy before all of that unfolds.  And frankly, finding happiness in marriage usually comes from bringing joy into the marriage.”
Now, I’m not positive my answer to this prayer request was very pastoral or even universally correct in regard to marriage.  But in the moment, I was struck by the tendency we have in believing that we’d be happy if we could just get some circumstance of life straightened out (your circumstance may not be finding a spouse). 
My hunch is that God is aware of our circumstances.  God may even want to straighten these circumstances out for us, too.  But God does not want our lives to be dependent upon circumstances being just right.  He has created us for spiritual depth not just circumstantial responsiveness.
In our text for this morning, Hannah is unhappy in her circumstances.  This verse occurs in the temple where she is weeping in prayer asking God to change her circumstances.  In response to her prayer, the priest tells her to “Go in peace; the God of Israel grant the petition you have made to him.” 
In a single moment, Hannah discovers two things.  First, she discovers that God does care about her circumstances.  Though the priest’s words are vague and fall a bit short of a promise that she will get things straightened out, she is blessed by the peace of God in the prayer.  Second, she finds happiness before her circumstances change. 
Happiness that is not tied to circumstances is called joy.  Hannah found joy in God’s being present to her now… where she was… as she was. 
This is the joy of Jesus that is available to us no matter the circumstances we find ourselves in.  We are not alone.  His Holy Spirit rests upon us.  We are loved.  God has not even withheld his own son from us but gave him up for us all.  God has us.  God has our circumstances in hand.
So, this afternoon, do not hold back.  Lift your circumstances before the Lord.  He cares about them because he cares about you.  But also ask him for joy.  Ask him to help you to know his peace, his presence, his blessing upon you.  In this way, we will find that God will bear us through all things with joy that is greater than what our circumstances seem to warrant.
Keenan Barber