22 He said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat, or about your body, what you will wear. 23 For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. 24 Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! 25 And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? 26 If then you are not able to do so small a thing as that, why do you worry about the rest? 27 Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. 28 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you—you of little faith!
Somehow, I lost a box of books. Last summer, when I was moving my things from the office at my previous church to my office here at Wesley, I brought boxes and boxes of books. Commentaries. Histories. Spiritual memoirs. Hymnals. Bibles. We pastors do love our books.
At one point, though, I realized one box was missing. I looked outside. I looked inside. I looked all throughout both churches. I looked in my basement. I looked in my car. The box was gone. I still don’t know where it ended up.
The worst of it? The box that went missing was the box labeled “FAVORITE AUTHORS.” I lost a whole box full of favorite books by favorite authors! Two of the books from that “favorite authors” shelf, though, managed to make their way to Wesley. These books didn’t fit into the “favorite authors” box… and so, serendipitously, they survived. One of those books? The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World, authored by two spiritual giants: the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu.
I’m so glad I managed to hang on to that book. I find myself returning to it, now, during this season of covid-tide. This week, in our daily devotionals, I’d like to share some of what I’ve found most striking in this joy-filled work.
We need that now, right? After all, how does one hold on to joy in this covid-tinged world? Perhaps… by reflecting on those things we often consider obstacles to joy. Things like… stress and anxiety. Anyone out there feeling stressed? Anyone feeling anxious? Yeah, I thought so.
But what’s behind all that stress and anxiety? For the Dalai Lama, it’s simple, but profound: “Stress and anxiety often come from too much expectation and too much ambition” (The Book of Joy, p. 96). Too much expectation. Too much ambition. That surprised me. I wouldn’t have thought that… but maybe there’s something there, something that can help me understand Jesus’ teaching. What expectations do ravens have, after all? What are the ambitions of lilies? Is that why they don’t worry? Because they’re not burdened with too much expectation, too much ambition? Maybe Jesus and the Dalai Lama are on the same page with this one.
For what it’s worth, Douglas Abrams (the journalist who spent a week with these two holy men and co-authored this book with them) struggled with this concept, too. He writes: “What is too much ambition? … For someone raised in America, where ambition is a virtue in and of itself… I was struck by his answer.” He continues: “Perhaps it is a question of priorities. What is it that is really worth pursuing? What is it we truly need?” (The Book of Joy, p. 96-97).
Hmmm. What is it that you need? What is it that you actually can’t live without? If you spend some time, some real intentional time, thinking about that question, I think you’ll come up with a pretty short list. What’s more, I think you’ll also find that you pretty much have what you need. I think you’ll find that deep and abiding sense that your true needs are met, even in the midst of a pandemic. I think you’ll find contentment.
And contentment? That may be closer to joy than you think. In the words of author Danielle LaPorte: “Admit to your contentment so it can tip over into joy.”
Meet stress and anxiety with contentment and joy, friends. And as you do, remember:
Our God is bigger than coronavirus.
Our vision is bigger than coronavirus, too.
We are people blessing people.
We are Wesley Church.
Want to know more?
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- View previous devotionals: https://wesleychurch.com/pastor-candys-devotionals-2/