Perhaps you have heard of this new-ish trend in Bible journaling? Creative people draw, letter, and color in their Bibles as they reflect on the passage they are studying.
I’ve been intrigued by this idea, and now that summer is starting, I thought that I would give it a try. During the academic year, I participate in Bible Study Fellowship, which is a wonderful, in-depth, and disciplined study. I very much appreciate the structure and schedule to BSF, but for summer break, I decided to try something a little bit different (and way further out of my comfort zone).
I thought a lot about whether I should share my devotions on my blog, and while I still don’t know if I will post about all of them, I thought I would at least share this one.
I’ve begun the summer by using the BSF prayer guide for the John Bible study that will begin in the fall. The guide gives Scripture from the book of John and suggests prayer prompts based upon that Scripture passage. As I read through the first few pages, I was struck especially by John 10:10. Jesus came that I, Natalie, might have life in Him, and have it abundantly! A joyful life.
For the past few months, I’ve felt like I’ve been overshadowed by clouds. It didn’t help that the weather itself was literally cloudy, rainy, and cold. I was discouraged, frustrated, and sad. And I didn’t like it. But I just couldn’t shake the clouds. I decided that I should really study this idea of a joyful life– a fullness of joy from and through Christ, not my circumstances or accomplishments. In Christ alone, my joy is complete. A completeness of joy. What does this mean?
I used my concordance to do a bit of a word study on the word “joy.” Several verses struck me, but the one that really kept echoing in my thoughts was Nehemiah 8:10. A little bit of context: The Babylonian exiles have returned to Jerusalem and have rebuilt the city wall, amidst much opposition. The wall is completed, and all the people gather to hear Ezra read the book of the Law of Moses. The people weep as they hear the words of God and have them explained to them. Nehemiah and Ezra tell the people not to mourn, for “the joy of the LORD is your strength.”
Cross-referencing this verse led me to passages in the Law about different feasts in which the people were told to rejoice before the Lord. The feasts were in celebration of the blessings that God had given to the people– they were to celebrate and be satisfied in the abundance of God’s provision.
All of this leads back to that abundant life in Jesus Christ. His blessings have overflowed upon me– most importantly through my salvation, but also in the everyday blessings I see, well, every day. I should be celebrating them. This reminded me of one of the memory verses my kids and I sing together, “Rejoice in all the good things the Lord your God has given to you.” Deuteronomy 26:11. I find my strength in what God has done, in His abundant blessings.
So the idea of thankfulness and joy in gratitude for God’s blessings is absolutely not a new one, but this personal series of devotions was instrumental to me, at this moment in my life, to begin to drive away the clouds that were crowding in on me. I used colored pencils to create a sun-filled sky above lush grass. You can see the clouds being pushed away, by God’s strength, at the bottom of the picture.
My joy is in Him. Thank you, Lord.