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(Note: The following message is a companion article to a message which aired on Autism One Radio. To hear the broadcast at any time, please go to:
http://autismone.org/radio/default.cfm?archive=844&bg=&FromA1
and click on the arrow above “Listen to Jack and Rebecca Sytsema.”)

LIVING IN THE JOY OF THE LORD
(with Scripture Guide)

For I have given rest to the weary and joy to the sorrowing.
(Jeremiah 31:25, NLT)

I REMEMBER THE FIRST TIME our son Nicholas said the word “shoe.” While that may not be a big deal for most parents, for me it was one of the most joyful moments of my entire life!

For months upon end we had gone through the same ritual every day: I showed him the shoe and said the word over and over and then said, “This is a sh…” I always paused hopefully, and yet many days I felt the tears well up as I finished the sentence myself. I felt lonely, confused, and unheard by God. “Please,” I would plead with God, “Just let him say one word!” And yet, nothing. Day after day, nothing. The well of disappointment in my heart became deeper and deeper.

Then came that miraculous day when, true to the ritual, I said “This is a sh…” and heard our son, diagnosed with nonverbal autism, say, “shoe.” Everything within me jumped! I laughed, I wept, I shouted, I hugged him, I thanked God over and over. I told everyone. The joy I felt that day was intense. It was easily as intense as all the pain I had felt each day that he had not responded. Whether or not their child has spoken that first word, almost every parent of a child with autism can relate. There has been some breakthrough somewhere that they have struggled to see. And when it finally comes, the joy cannot be described.

And yet, even though there can be moments of intense joy and victory, most parents of a child with autism, or any number of special needs, understandably don’t experience an ongoing lifestyle of joy and victory. More often than not there is grief and sorrow. So here’s the big question: Can we live a lifestyle of joy and victory even if we have a child with special needs? I believe the answer to that question is yes.

Sorrow and Joy

Sorrow and joy are firmly linked. Perhaps it is because the deeper we experience sorrow, the more capacity we have for joy. That is why I felt such a deep sense of joy the first time Nicholas said, “shoe.” I had felt such deep sorrow each time he did not. I suppose it is similar to hunger. The hungrier we are, the more satisfying a good meal is to us. God knows this. Although right now we may only see the sorrow and tears of the night, God has planned a bright and beautiful morning full of joy. The Bible tells us this over and over:

Weeping may go on all night, but joy comes with the morning. (Psalm 30:5, NLT)

You have turned my mourning into joyful dancing. You have taken away my clothes of mourning and clothed me with joy, (Psalm 30:11, NLT)

Those who plant in tears will harvest with shouts of joy. They weep as they go to plant their seed, but they sing as they return with the harvest. (Psalm 126:5-6, NLT)

I will turn their mourning into joy. I will comfort them and exchange their sorrow for rejoicing.
(Jeremiah 31:13, NLT)

Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.
(John 16: 22, NIV)

There are seasons in our life when we will mourn and have sorrow. But, there are also seasons of our life that are meant for joy.

A New Wind of Strength

One reason God may have for bringing joy after a season of sorrow is to bring a new wind of strength to our spirits. Grief and mourning rob us of our strength, both spiritually and physically. There is a weakness that comes from such an emotional and spiritual load. But God knows that joy brings a new vitality and strength, for the joy of the LORD is your strength (Nehemiah 8:10). Joy produces the kind of strength we need to move forward.

It is often very easy for us to believe that we cannot experience joy until we see this or that breakthrough in our child’s life. We can actually come to the place where we feel disqualified from a life of joy because of the burden we bear. But quite honestly, that is a lie from Satan, who is the father of all lies. Satan knows that if he can keep us from experiencing the joy of the Lord, he will keep us in a place of weakness and defeat. Satan has a stake in keeping us separated from the joy of the Lord because it is linked with our strength. If we are sapped of strength, we will have difficulty in moving forward out of the hassles, anxieties, and warfare we are in. Furthermore, we will not have the ability to receive the strategy we need to move into our next season.

As parents of special needs children, we are not only NOT disqualified from the joy of the Lord, we absolutely need the joy of the Lord in order to remain in a place of strength for all that is required of us. God has promised us abundant life, part of which is joy. Here are some ways to help us maintain a joyful, abundant life:

1. Meditation.
One of the ways God has provided for our joy is contingent upon our willingness to take time to meditate on His Word. Why? Because if we just read God’s Word without taking the time to give it thought, we deny ourselves the opportunity to receive personal revelation, refreshment, and the promises He has for us and our children.

2. Prayer.
Prayer is very simply communicating with God. We will never advance in any aspect of our Christian lives without prayer, whether they are prayers of thanksgiving, repentance, supplication, or intercession on someone else’s behalf. When we pray, the channels to God open—both ways. To neglect prayer is to neglect God Himself.

3. Fasting.
For the Christian, fasting is essential. Often you cannot gain the revelation you need for your next step without it. Even Jesus agreed that some things simply could not be accomplished without fasting. By fasting, we make it possible for the Lord to more powerfully reveal Himself to us. Fasting does not always have to mean food. It may mean other things we enjoy, such as television. When we choose to give up something temporal in order to pursue something eternal, and to the degree to which we allow ourselves to hunger after God, it is to that degree that we will be satisfied by Him and experience His joy.

4. Giving.
Giving is the very heart of God. It is linked with worship. We cannot come in to all He has for us in our lives if we are unwilling to give, because we simply cannot reap what we will not sow.

5. Warfare.
Whether we like it or not, we are in a war between the powers of darkness and the power of light. There are times when we must enter into warfare-style praying in order to gain the strategy we need to defeat the enemy in whatever battles we face.

6. Worship.
Worship is that place where we can come into intimacy with God. Songs and singing may be a catalyst for this, as can prayer or any of the disciplines mentioned. Worship is a lifestyle of focusing our minds and hearts on God and all that He is. It is a response to all He has done for us, and is essential to living in joy.

7. Work.
There is a time to work. Many times we can speak to the mountain and see it removed, and other times we have to dig through it to get to the other side. That is what I call spiritual work. Most parents of children with autism that I have met understand this and are great at working for their child’s recovery.

8. Rest.
Rest is so essential to regaining strength. In that way, it is linked with joy. We need rest for several reasons. First it is a matter of obedience to God. He commanded us to do so in the 10 Commandments through the observance of the Sabbath. Second, rest is an issue of trust in God. If we are at rest, God is going to have to “watch the stuff” for us as we regain our strength. Third, it is a matter of our physical well-being. Fourth, God created rest for us to stop and meditate on Him. Fifth, it is from this time of quietness that we can receive revelation and strategy for moving forward toward victory.

It is our prayer for you that you will allow the Lord to bless you with abundant life, great joy, and a fresh wind of strength that will carry you and your family through to victorious days ahead!

Jack and Rebecca Sytsema

©2006, Children of Destiny. All rights reserved.

(Portions of this article have been adapted from the book, Possessing Your Inheritance, by Chuck D. Pierce and Rebecca Wagner Sytsema, published by Renew Books, 1999).

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LIVING IN THE JOY OF THE LORD
SCRIPTURE GUIDE


Let the sea and everything in it shout his praise! Let the fields and their crops burst forth with joy! (1 Chronicles 16:32, NLT)

And Nehemiah continued, “Go and celebrate with a feast of choice foods and sweet drinks, and share gifts of food with people who have nothing prepared. This is a sacred day before our Lord. Don't be dejected and sad, for the joy of the LORD is your strength!” (Nehemiah 8:10, NLT)

So the people went away to eat and drink at a festive meal, to share gifts of food, and to celebrate with great joy because they had heard God's words and understood them. (Nehemiah 8:12, NLT)

But look! God will not reject a person of integrity, nor will he make evildoers prosper. He will yet fill your mouth with laughter and your lips with shouts of joy. (Job 8:20-21, NLT)

You have given me greater joy than those who have abundant harvests of grain and wine. I will lie down in peace and sleep, for you alone, O LORD, will keep me safe. (Psalm 4:7-8, NLT)

But let all who take refuge in you rejoice; let them sing joyful praises forever. Protect them, so all who love your name may be filled with joy. For you bless the godly, O LORD, surrounding them with your shield of love. (Psalm 5:11-12, NLT)

I will be filled with joy because of you. I will sing praises to your name, O Most High. (Psalm 9:2, NLT)

I will bless the LORD who guides me; even at night my heart instructs me. I know the LORD is always with me. I will not be shaken, for he is right beside me. No wonder my heart is filled with joy, and my mouth shouts his praises! My body rests in safety. For you will not leave my soul among the dead or allow your godly one to rot in the grave. You will show me the way of life, granting me the joy of your presence and the pleasures of living with you forever. (Psalm 16:7-11, NLT)

May he grant your heart's desire and fulfill all your plans. May we shout for joy when we hear of your victory, flying banners to honor our God. May the LORD answer all your prayers. (Psalm 20:4-5, NLT)

The poor will eat and be satisfied. All who seek the LORD will praise him. Their hearts will rejoice with everlasting joy. (Psalm 22:26, NLT)

The LORD is my strength, my shield from every danger. I trust in him with all my heart. He helps me, and my heart is filled with joy. I burst out in songs of thanksgiving. (Psalm 28:7, NLT)

His anger lasts for a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime! Weeping may go on all night, but joy comes with the morning. (Psalm 30:5, NLT)

You have turned my mourning into joyful dancing. You have taken away my clothes of mourning and clothed me with joy, (Psalm 30:11, NLT)

I am overcome with joy because of your unfailing love, for you have seen my troubles, and you care about the anguish of my soul. (Psalm 31:7, NLT)

Those who look to him for help will be radiant with joy; no shadow of shame will darken their faces. I cried out to the LORD in my suffering, and he heard me. He set me free from all my fears. (Psalm 34:5-6, NLT)

But may all who search for you be filled with joy and gladness. May those who love your salvation repeatedly shout, "The LORD is great!" As for me, I am poor and needy, but the Lord is thinking about me right now. You are my helper and my savior. Do not delay, O my God. (Psalm 40:16-17, NLT)

But as for me, I will sing about your power. I will shout with joy each morning because of your unfailing love. For you have been my refuge, a place of safety in the day of distress. O my Strength, to you I sing praises, for you, O God, are my refuge, the God who shows me unfailing love. (Psalm 59:16-17, NLT)

I think how much you have helped me; I sing for joy in the shadow of your protecting wings.
(Psalm 63:7, NLT)

What joy for those you choose to bring near, those who live in your holy courts. What joys await us inside your holy Temple. You faithfully answer our prayers with awesome deeds, O God our savior. You are the hope of everyone on earth, even those who sail on distant seas. (Psalm 65:4-5, NLT)

But let the godly rejoice. Let them be glad in God's presence. Let them be filled with joy. Sing praises to God and to his name! Sing loud praises to him who rides the clouds. His name is the LORD-- rejoice in his presence! Father to the fatherless, defender of widows-- this is God, whose dwelling is holy. God places the lonely in families; he sets the prisoners free and gives them joy. But for rebels, there is only famine and distress. (Psalm 68:3-6, NLT)

The humble will see their God at work and be glad. Let all who seek God's help live in joy. For the LORD hears the cries of his needy ones; he does not despise his people who are oppressed. Praise him, O heaven and earth, the seas and all that move in them. (Psalm 69:32-34, NLT)

But may all who search for you be filled with joy and gladness. May those who love your salvation repeatedly shout, “God is great!” But I am poor and needy; please hurry to my aid, O God. You are my helper and my savior; O LORD, do not delay! (Psalm 70:4-5, NLT)

Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, so we may sing for joy to the end of our lives. Give us gladness in proportion to our former misery! Replace the evil years with good. Let us see your miracles again; let our children see your glory at work. And may the Lord our God show us his approval and make our efforts successful. Yes, make our efforts successful! (Psalm 90:14-17, NLT)

Restore our fortunes, LORD, as streams renew the desert. Those who plant in tears will harvest with shouts of joy. They weep as they go to plant their seed, but they sing as they return with the harvest. (Psalm 126:4-6, NLT)

Everyone will share the story of your wonderful goodness; they will sing with joy of your righteousness. The LORD is kind and merciful, slow to get angry, full of unfailing love. The LORD is good to everyone. He showers compassion on all his creation. (Psalm 145:7-9, NLT)

Sing for joy, O heavens! Rejoice, O earth! Burst into song, O mountains! For the LORD has comforted his people and will have compassion on them in their sorrow. (Isaiah 49:13, NLT)

To all who mourn in Israel, he will give beauty for ashes, joy instead of mourning, praise instead of despair. For the LORD has planted them like strong and graceful oaks for his own glory. (Isaiah 61:3, NLT)

The young women will dance for joy, and the men-- old and young-- will join in the celebration. I will turn their mourning into joy. I will comfort them and exchange their sorrow for rejoicing. (Jeremiah 31:13, NLT)

For I have given rest to the weary and joy to the sorrowing. (Jeremiah 31:25, NLT)

I tell you the truth, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy. A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world. So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy. (John 16:20-22, NIV)


But when the Holy Spirit controls our lives, he will produce this kind of fruit in us: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Here there is no conflict with the law. (Galatians 5:22-23, NLT)

We also pray that you will be strengthened with his glorious power so that you will have all the patience and endurance you need. May you be filled with joy. (Colossians 1:11, NLT)

Dear brothers and sisters, whenever trouble comes your way, let it be an opportunity for joy. For when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be strong in character and ready for anything. (James 1:2-4, NLT)


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