Joy in Freedom

Saturday morning was cool and dreary. A beautiful fog settled over the Bay Area this weekend, blanketing everything in its quiet presence. Around 10:00, I convinced my younger two boys to get out of their pajamas and come with me to the post office and then to the park. With the dog in tow, we went about our errands. I was looking forward to a quiet day at the park, letting the dog get some of his energy out sans the ever-annoying leash pull.

Disappointment met me at the park, with the large field full of a soccer game and the playground too wet with dew to enjoy. My spirit was searching for a taste of freedom and fun, and the constraints of the situation were instantly deflating.

After a few minutes of “making it work,” we ditched the park and headed down to the creek that runs along the back side of the park grounds. As soon as we were past the soccer players and the boys riding bicycles down the sidewalk, I unleashed my dog and the four of us ventured off the asphalt and onto the muddy path that led steeply down to the water’s edge.

The dog was instantly in the water, surprising the boys and making me laugh. Joy.

My thoughts became less anxious; my heart relaxed. One boy almost slid down a muddy hillside. The dog was delighted. Sticks were found. Rocks were thrown. We walked through the wandering paths that other feet had worn—towards the water, and then away again. We could still hear the cheering of the soccer game, and the voices of the people riding bikes down the path, but those earlier constraints and concerns were all but faded away.

We were less than 100 yards away from where we started. What made the difference? What changed my deflated spirit to a joyful one?

I believe it was freedom.

Hanging out at the playground by the soccer fields, I was stuck in focusing on what I needed to do. Keep the dog under control (and clean up after him). Make sure the boys are being respectful of others. Remind everyone to be careful so no one would get hurt on the slick playground. …

Moving to the water’s edge allowed me to be present in the moment without any of the world’s pressures to perform on my shoulders.

Spending time with Jesus is like this. When we spend time with him by reading his words in the Bible, talking to him, or singing songs about him, we get to slough off the weights of the world that we carry around with us. Being with him brings freedom to our souls. Joy.

The New Testament writer, Paul, knew a thing or two about being weighed down by expectations of the world around him. He grew up always following the rules and doing things the “right way.” After he got to know Jesus, though, things changed for him. He wrote in a letter to other believers: “Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ and become one with him. I no longer count on my own righteousness through obeying the law; rather, I become righteous through faith in Christ” (Philippians 3:8-9).

Not only did Jesus free Paul from the weight of the world’s expectations, but he also freed Paul from fear of the future. Paul was confident that Jesus loved him, that Jesus’ death on the cross had forgiven his sins, and that he would one day get to see Jesus face-to-face in heaven.

Paul found freedom in Jesus. And it translated to joy.

“Whatever happens, my dear brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord.” Phil. 3:1

“Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice!” Phil 4:4

Have the constraints of our current world deflated your soul? Are you weary of “trying to make it work” with the weights of the world on your shoulders? I invite you to the water side—to Jesus, who is Living Water. He has a freedom that is unlike any the world tries to offer, and his freedom ushers in pure Joy.

Rejoice, and enjoy!

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