Yesterday I read something that seemed to settle the struggle in my soul:“
Joy is simply perfect acquiescence in God’s will, because the soul delights itself in God Himself.” (Prebendary Webb-Peploe)
Perfect acquiescence means agreement or consent without objection. It implies the choice to not fight, to not struggle against a boundary line. In fact, it suggests such a lack of fight as to abandon one’s right to contest the matter at all. In such a surrender to God’s will, says the writer, real joy is discovered. Not because the boundary lines are necessarily pleasant, but because it is God Himself Who is pleasant within those boundary lines.
When God is in the space we’re in, David noted in Psalm 16, the pleasantness of His presence actually makes the boundary lines look beautiful. We see the landscape transformed, and are suddenly able to see that, what before looked like confinement, is now a spacious and lovely place to dwell, because of the company we have met with there. “In God’s presence,” the song goes, “all things are new.”
David testified to this truth while on the run as a refugee, fleeing for his life. Hardly a lot to be satisfied with, one might think. I’m sure he longed for the easy days, when he could lie in the fields and gaze at the stars and worship the One Who made them. Surely that would have been a good time to write a song about how pleasant his life was. And yet, it wasn’t. Instead, while fleeing from his enemy, thrust into a life of danger and conflict and wrenched from all his beloved comforts, his song was this:
“The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup; You hold my lot. The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places; indeed I have a beautiful inheritance.”
David was able to see beyond the troubles he faced and fix his eyes on the God Who was with him in those troubles. So much so that he ceased to wish for a better situation and instead began rejoicing in the space he found himself in, because God was in it with Him, and that made everything beautiful and full. This is why Paul, from a prison cell, could write a letter urging the churches to rejoice in the Lord always. He, too, knew the secret of surrendering to the space God had set him in.
Oh to discover such joy! What a freedom must be found there!
Yet how often do we search for joy in fleeting pleasures which exist beyond the borders God has set for our lives? In Acts 17, Paul met with a group of philosophers who felt, I think, much the same way we tend to feel about God. They had erected an altar to God, so they could offer some form of worship to Him. They knew He was real, and wanted to acknowledge that fact. But the inscription on the altar spelled out a predicament we are all prone to wrestle with. It said, quite simply: “To the unknown god.” In other words, they had made room for God in their experience of life, but they did not know God because they hadn’t embraced the life He came to give them, through Jesus. Therefore, He remained to them a mystery, and a distant one at that.
So Paul, knowing there was so much more God intended for them, attempted to introduce them to the God they didn’t know. Curiously enough, in that attempt, he proclaimed the God Who made the world, Who made all of humanity to live in the world He made, and Who determined the boundary lines of each man’s dwelling place in that world, so that they might there seek God and find Him.
Did you catch that? Paul said that we are meant to find God right where we are, in the spaces to which He has assigned us, within the boundary lines He has set for our lives. Though quite likely filled with heartache and mess and trouble and even agony, God is right there with us, holding out the promise of joy in His hand, if only we will surrender to what He has chosen for us, right here, right now.
If I were to pick up that imagery and transpose it into my real-life scenario, it would look like me embracing a difficult season of marriage, torn by years of our addictions and selfishness and badly in need of repairs I’m not sure I have the strength to see through. Yet, I have heard God’s Word on the matter, and I am certain His plans for me are good, here. Rather than calling me to a new dwelling place, rather than assigning me to a different lot, this is the place God has designed for me to find my greatest, deepest joy. Because this is the space He has called me to live in, to work in, to grow in, and to discover the fullness of Him in. This is where He is in my life, where He has not only planted me, but where He has set up camp as well. He intends to do a great work here, and I will see it, if I am willing to surrender to it.
My heart doesn’t want to accept it. It’s easier to quit, to imagine that life would be better, easier, more comfortable somewhere else. Alone maybe. Just me and God. But I don’t get to write my own boundary lines. I don’t get to determine my own dwelling place. At least not if I want what God has promised me – that true joy which comes from perfect surrender to His will, even though and even when His will doesn’t make sense to me.
But that’s when it counts the most, I suppose. When it doesn’t make sense is the point at which trust is born and grows stronger. When we agree to leave behind the road we want to take – the road that looks far more appealing – and follow God on this road, broken as it may be, we are trusting that His way is as He said it will be: better than we can imagine, and greater than we could find for ourselves.
It doesn’t make sense. But that’s the point of faith. The cross, the way of suffering and sacrifice and humility, is foolishness to the world. It is foolishness to hearts that are always craving more and better. But when God made the world and everything in it, including you and me and our appointed dwelling places, He called it good. And good was good enough for God. No upgrades needed.
“I delight to do Your will,” said Jesus, though the Father’s will included the cross, though it cost Him His blood. But Jesus knew God, because He was God. He knew the promise was true: “For the joy set before Him, He endured the cross…” In the space appointed for Him, Jesus remained. He willingly entered in, He perfectly surrendered, and there He suffered and died.
But there He also rose to a new life, and knew a fullness of joy and a depth of satisfaction that no earthly portion could have offered.
Beloved woman of breakthrough, there is treasure in your lot! It has been promised. So stay the course! Remain where you are and dig for the joy that is yours in this space. The pearl of great price is waiting to be discovered, and is well worth the sacrifice of all other pursuits and treasures. In Him, in Jesus alone, your soul will discover its feast, if you are willing to hunger for that which every other temptation can only pretend to satisfy.
Right here, right now, say yes to God’s invitation, to discovering real joy. As you seek, you shall find that which has been promised to you.