It was pretty clear by the time I hit the snooze button for the fifth time. I didn’t want to get out of bed. Then words from Hebrews 12:2 I had read the day before came to mind: “For the joy set before him, he endured the cross.”
I lay there, wondering, what is the joy set before me? What can give me such hope that I can endure mornings when I just don’t want to face another teen intervention, another therapy appointment or a house that makes a train wreck look pretty inviting? And what can help me endure those things I know will never go away, because there is no cure for autism, or for the onslaught of aging, or for our finances that just don’t seem to be able to keep up with the demands of either one?
“Worship in God’s presence,” I said out loud, as if trying it on for size. My 60-pound Goldendoodle shot me a quick glance. (Thankfully, dogs are not judgmental and don’t seem to care when you do this.)
Yes, eternal worship will be glorious. But at that moment, lying in my bed, the only thing that seemed eternal was my dread of the day looming ahead.
In frustration, I asked God again, what is the joy set before me? Especially when faced with circumstances that will probably never change?
And then it came to me. Purpose. My life has a purpose.
Nothing in my life is wasted—not even the shameful, messy, harrowing details of life I can only share with those who understand autism. Because when I thought about it, everything I have experienced (even those only-seen-by-God moments) has in some way increased my compassion for those around me.
Thanks to autism, I know what it feels like to be a parent whose family is unusual. We don’t function like everyone else. Our family often goes about life in a way that isn’t comfortable for the institutions, the culture and sometimes even the believers around us. I know what that feels like. And it isn’t wasted.
Because when I hear a friend telling me about the frustration of still trying to toilet train their nine-year-old, or having to put away knives for fear of safety, it doesn’t make me judge them or even pity them. It floods me with compassion for them. My life isn’t just about me, and our family’s issues with autism. It’s about all of us together. The body of Christ.
And that gives me joy.
I wish I could tell you that as a result of this revelation, the rest of my day was transformed into a joyful jaunt through parenting fields of flowery bliss. I’m sorry to say, mere hours later, I had a parental meltdown that only a 20-minute drive could save me from unleashing on my children.
But after my ability to reason (i.e. my sanity) returned, I laid my frustration and tears and desire to run away at my Father’s feet where he reminded me not even this no-good-terrible day was wasted. Even in this, He is transforming me into His likeness. There is a purpose. And that is helping me to endure.
Question: God has provided many sources of joy that can enable us to endure tough days, weeks or seasons of life. Perhaps, as is listed in Philippians 4, your joy comes from knowing that you are not alone? Or that Jesus’ return is near? Or that Christ has the power to get you through each moment? What is your joy?
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