Childlike Joy

By Kim Longden

I remember being a new mom and looking nostalgically at my little children experiencing delight and wonder at everyday things in their world. I wished to be young again and able to live in the moment!

Wonder and delight were things I seemed to have outgrown as the years had gone by. There was too much to worry about with kids, finances, commitments, “what ifs”, etc. The cares of the world had stolen my joy, and I thought that carrying their weight was just the way it was in adulthood; that the joy of childhood was a thing of the past.

In this humdrum season I began to desire a closer relationship with God. At the time I didn’t realize there was a correlation between my longing for joy and my desire for God. (I love how the Holy Spirit guides us even when we don’t realize it!)

Pursuing this relationship started out as something I knew I should do—like I knew I should eat better and exercise more. In the same way I might ask those who were physically healthy what they did to stay fit, I asked people who exhibited peace and a genuine love for God what they’d been doing in their spiritual lives. I found a common thread: they all spent time with the Lord through the regular reading of God’s Word and prayer. So I committed to doing these things, too.

Over time, I began to experience the fruit of a closer connection with Jesus. What started as I should do this turned into a beautiful exchange in which my meager efforts of pursuing a relationship with Jesus were blessed by experiences of His goodness—many of which were unexpected!

Through time in God’s Word and prayer, the Spirit was drawing me toward the way of life God intended for me—an everyday life that has purpose and meaning that endures.

Purpose and meaning in everyday life is such a treasure for a mom who is home all day with little kids! But on the periphery, an unexpected blessing was also happening. That joy and wonder I had been yearning for from my younger years … it started to come back! Nothing had really changed—the cares of the world were still there—but an undercurrent of joy regardless of circumstances was emerging from somewhere within.

I had been craving peace; but I had not anticipated joy. I’m not sure what I expected—maybe a stoic peace? But instead of just monk-like quiet peace, I was experiencing joy! Belly-laugh, live-in-the-moment, delight-in-life joy welling up from deep inside. 

The more I got to know Jesus the more I trusted that He cared for me, so when He said, “Cast your anxieties on me,” I tried it. Instead of my old “Christian-ese” prayers, I talked to Him about my real struggles—my sins, doubts, worries, all the “what ifs.”

I realized that those cares of the world that came with adulthood—God never intended for me to carry them on my own. The closer I was to Jesus, the lighter the burdens became because He carried them. The more I learned to trust every day that He would never leave me nor forsake me, the more I was able to delight and find joy in everyday life.

I once read that “the spiritual life is the life of a child.” Young kids are content to be in a position where they trust they will receive everything from us, and they enjoy life even though they have no idea what will happen next.

This past year has shown me that I really have no idea what will happen next, either. Even though I am uncertain of life, I am learning to be certain of God; and I am learning to be more fully dependent on Jesus, like a child. The joy of the Lord is my strength!

That joy doesn’t mean all of my worries, anxieties, and problems have magically disappeared. I still strain against my sinful nature which really wants to worry and fret about many things. When I spend time alone with God, Jesus sets my heart and mind on things above, helping my soul be at peace under His promises and care. This kind of peace surpasses all understanding—it really doesn’t make sense. It is a miraculous, joyful peace, and a confirmation of God’s faithfulness to God’s own Word and promises.

I have truly tasted and seen that the Lord is good! But I become complacent at times in my efforts to stay close to God. I am prone to wander, to question, to become lazy. The further I get away from God, the more I feel the burden of those cares again, my joy is stolen, and my worry is back.

Gracious invitations from the Holy Spirit to daily cast my burdens on Jesus are often extended through my little children. The other night I watched my daughter take joyful delight in her new skill of pumping on the swing, totally caught up in the moment and loving life. I realized that I have been dwelling on the “what ifs?” again lately, unable to live in the moment, with the cares of the world heavy on my mind. My connection to The Vine has been weak and I’ve been trying to carry everything alone again.

Seeing my daughter’s pure joy has reminded me that “the spiritual life is the life of a child,” and has made me want to run back to Jesus—to knowing Him, loving Him, and releasing everything to Him again. I know Jesus has not left me nor forsaken me; Jesus is the faithful one in this relationship.

My friend Jesus is inviting me back into trust and dependence. The Spirit never turns me away. The Father is waiting for me with open arms.

What a friend we have in Jesus,
All our sins and griefs to bear!

What a privilege to carry
Everything to God in prayer!
Oh, what peace we often forfeit,
Oh, what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry,
Everything to God in prayer!

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