Book Review: 31 Days of Joy: A Devotional Journey in Fiction & Scripture.
Steph Nickel reviews 31 Days of Joy by Rachel Starr Thomas. She finds that it reminded her of a deep need for a well rounded church community.
We Need One Another
I’ve recently begun Rachel Starr Thomas’s study 31 Days of Joy: A Devotional Journey in Fiction & Scripture.
The study springs from James 1:2-4, which says,
“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (ESV).
Each entry includes an excerpt from a novel, a scripture, and an inspirational thought with room to journal in response.
A Devotional Journey
One of the keys to understanding how this study works is in the subtitle, “A Devotional Journey …”
So, if we’re journeying to joy, where do we begin?
On Day 1, the author asks readers to record their personal battle.
Sure, I get in a funk every once in a while. But, hey, my life is pretty darn good. What personal battle am I facing?
And then it struck me. My heart is heavy because I see the hurt, misunderstanding, and disrespect happening all around me—in the church.
And hard on the heels of that revelation, I ask, “What can I do about it?”
Ever had one of those instantaneous D’uh Moments?
You’re a writer, Stephanie. So, write!
And here I am.
Am I writing to rag on the church? No, they’re my brothers and sisters in Christ.
Am I here to say I’m on the hunt for the perfect local fellowship, where we all love one another and get along 100 percent of the time? I’m almost 60 years old. I know such a place doesn’t exist.
The Community I Want To Belong To
But am I intent on doing my part to identify the type of community I want to belong to—and then doing what I can to bring about change as I have the opportunity? Absolutely.
Now, you may be a mover and shaker, intent on following the path you feel has been laid out before you, eyes focused straight ahead, blinders firmly in place.
Don’t get me wrong, we need people who keep us moving on a God-honouring trajectory. But we also need people who will identify obstacles in the road and come up with creative ways to deal with the obstacles. Sometimes barreling right through them is not the best course of action.
Even more importantly, we need people who recognize that there are men and women, young people, and children among us who may have ideas that are far better than our own. We need decision-makers who are humble enough to learn from those without as much experience as they have. (The Bible has a lot to say about humility and pride.)
We also need people who will recognize the giftings in others and nurture those giftings, setting individuals free to minister in ways that give their uniqueness an opportunity to flourish.
And, without a doubt, we need people who recognize the wounded. Sure, some are obvious, but some people have developed great skill at withdrawing into themselves because they’ve been hurt over and over and over.
Where Do You Fit
Where do you fit?
Do you clearly see the path ahead? Cast that vision in a way that enables others to see what you see. Be patient with those who don’t quite get it. Don’t rush out too far ahead. And be humble enough to consider other’s ideas and input.
Are you motoring along, keeping your head down and doing your own thing? While we need diligent, hardworking peacemakers who keep things moving forward, we also need them to speak up when things aren’t moving in the right direction. Just this past year, I learned there is a way to respectfully address concerns about the direction our churches are going without being prideful and argumentative, without seeking to cause descension and division. And when we see issues that need to be addressed, it just may be our job to bring them to light.
The Hurt And Wounded
Finally, there are those who are so hurt and wounded that they do their very best to blend into the shadows. Some are “so done” with church. Do we provide a place for them to be open and honest? Do we really listen to what they have to say? Do we consider if there is something we should change, both individually and as a fellowship? Do we truly weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice?
In the Church, there is a place for every believer in Jesus. He has made each one unique, with specific gifts and talents He has called us to develop and use. Let’s make a place for everyone at the table.
And let’s do what James said in James 1:9, “Be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger” (ESV).
I highly recommend 31 Days of Joy: A Devotional Journey in Fiction & Scripture.
Stephanie is a freelance writer and a contributor to our Christian internet radio station, HopeStreamRadio.
More Podcasts You May Enjoy:
Images courtesy of:
Child with Balloons – Pezibear
Cyclists – icsilviu
Man in Red Jacket – Free_Photos