Duty or Joy

It’s been a hard couple of months.

When I say that, it probably conjures up thoughts of death or sickness or some other misfortune in the family. But, honestly? The last few weeks have just been difficult. But for a while I struggled to understand why.

On paper the last several weeks have been great. I’ve been sticking to a regular diet and exercise and weight is seemingly melting off me – I recently kicked off the last of the baby weight and am extremely close to wearing clothes I last wore when my husband and I met in 2014. Our toddler has good and bad day behaviorally, but, on the whole she’s doing very well. Our infant is beginning to sleep through the night more regularly. The weather is finally nice. My husband is very well after our emergency room and hospital ordeal. I’ve been reading the Bible daily and have finished the Old Testament all the way up through 2 Kings.

But I’ve been cranky. I’ve been dissatisfied. I feel like I’ve brought more complaints to my husband in the last eight weeks than I have in the entirety of our marriage. I felt under siege by frustration. And then I felt guilty because there are so many people I know with a great many more important problems than my grumpiness.

So how do you get out of an unexplained funk?

Eventually I realized I wasn’t praying. That is, I was praying “daily maintenance” prayers (“God, please help me have patience right now as my kid is losing it,”), and I was praying for friends and family who asked for prayer, but not really sitting down quietly with God and talking with him.

And the more I thought about that, the more I wondered what the deal was with my daily Bible reading. How was I approaching it? I’ve been following a read-at-your-own-pace plan, in hopes of reading the whole Bible in a year. And the more I thought about it, the more I realized I was going to the Bible not to know know God’s word, cherish it, and have it transform me, but just to get the reading done.

I was reminded of Lamentations 12, where Solomon says “The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man,” (v 13).

The first time I read this passage I was really struck by the word “duty.” I thought back to the Psalms, where David rejoiced over God’s commandments:

“Teach me, O Lord, the way of your statutes; and I will keep it to the end. Give me understanding, that I may keep your law and observe it with my whole heart. Lead me in the path of your commandments, for I delight in it. Incline my heart to your testimonies, and not to selfish gain! … I find my delight in your commandments, which I love. I will lift up my hands toward your commandments, which I love, and I will meditate on your statutes.” – Psalm 119: 33-37; 47-48

David sinned – majorly, in catastrophic ways – but his heart was always for God, His laws, and His righteousness. Solomon kept the outward appearance of following God’s laws by offering the requisite sacrifices, but he didn’t seem to long for God’s law like David. My favorite example of this is Solomon taking an Egyptian wife (against God’s law) and having to build a separate house for her: “for he said, ‘My wife must not live in the palace of David king of Israel, because the places the ark of the Lord has entered are holy.'” (2 Chronicles 8:11) (DO YOU HEAR YOURSELF TALKING?????)

Solomon (barely) gave God what was his duty. But he tried to find joy in other things. Spoiler alert: he was not successful, and he spent an entire book of the Bible talking about it. But David spent an entire book in the Bible rejoicing over God’s word.

Am I Solomon, or am I David?

More frequently the former rather than the latter, I’m afraid.

So yesterday I went out and bought a prayer journal, and last night when it came time to read I turned to the Psalms (I had been in Isaiah). I read, and I meditated, and I prayed. And today I can find joy in the way God has been convicting my heart of things and transforming me into a new creation in Him.

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