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“All”  is a great word throughout Scripture.

  “I can do ALL things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Philippians  4:13)

ALL things work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose.”

“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than ALL we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout ALL generations, for ever and ever!” (Ephesians 3:20, 21)

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of ALL comfort who comforts us in ALL our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.: 2 Corinthians 1:3-4
 
“But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this ALL-surpassing power is from God and not from us.”
2 Corinthians 4:7
 
This list goes on and on and encourages us to trust a God who is all-knowing, all-powerful, always present, and cares for us all. It is so incredible to search the scriptures and try to fathom the depth of how big and how small, how great and how involved in the details, God truly is.
 
But there are other verses about “All”.  Many other verses.  The one I’m thinking on today is in James.  The “Count it ALL joy” verse. It doesn’t say, ‘Count it all joy when you are blessed beyond belief”, or “count it all joy when things go your way”.   This verse says, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds…”  So you’re telling me that I’m supposed to enJOY trials?   To find the silver lining in ALL things?
 
That verse is one I memorized as a young teenager.  But honestly, it wasn’t until recently that I really began to delve into what that truly means.  I had started studying the book of James in early February.  This verse is in the first chapter, so I had been thinking about it a lot.  I can say, like most of  us, that in life, I’ve had my share of trials and rough patches for sure. But I always focused on the ending part of the verse that emphasized the growth in  our trials. 
 
I’d skip past the “Count it all joy” part to the “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.  If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him..”  James 1: 2-5   I missed the joy part and focused on the growth piece.  The end result rather than the process. 
 
But as I started studying James, I found myself thinking on the “Count it ALL joy” part.  The duty of Joy.  And ofcourse, when you study verses, it seems that God will give ample opportunity to practice them!  Thus, the phone call from my husband… 
 
“Heather, Josh is in the hospital.  It’s serious.  We’re not sure what’s wrong, but I’ll call you back as soon as I know something.”  I was in North Carolina and they were 4 hours away in another state.  Turns out that Josh had a serious condition, pancreatitis, and would be in the hospital for at least a week. (What brought him to this condition was one of my deep heartaches in itself, but that’s another story for another time.)  So, we decided that I’d finish out the week caring for our family here, and then stay with Josh at the hospital on the weekend.
 
When I saw Josh, I was so thankful.  Thankful for the time, the ability to see him face to face. The days together were a gift for me as I was able to spend time, pray, talk and care for him.  But as Sunday afternoon approached, a sense of dread and fear was just rising up in  me.  I didn’t want to leave.  It’s that feeling that I’ve often felt as a mom…that feeling of knowing that you can’t care for everyone in the way that you want to. I felt stretched knowing that whatever I did, just didn’t feel like it was enough.  For anyone. 
 
I left with tears in my eyes and a pit in my stomach, trying to hold on to hope but feeling so torn.  His having a hard day of feeling “trapped” in the hospital didn’t make it any easier to leave. My youngest son and I began the trek home.  The sun was out and it helped to soften the bitter cold of the February day.  As we drove, my son listened to his headphones and I had a bit of quiet and solace of praying through and singing and trying to gather my thoughts of what was behind us and what would come in the week ahead. 

It was a peaceful trip until….all of a sudden, we heard a loud rumbling sound and the car started shaking. “What the Heck?!!”Tanner yelled at the top of his lungs as I looked back into the rearview mirror and saw our front tire bouncing down the highway. I was traveling 75 miles per hour in the left lane, and our tire had totally detached from the wheel. I quickly diverted oncoming cars and pulled over to the side. We made it to the roadside and it seemed incredibly quiet after the noises from the car and shouts from Tanner.

Long story short, help would be on it’s way “within an hour”. So we had some time to sit in the car. I got out my pen and little notebook, and as I talked with Tanner about how thankful I was that we were okay, I started thinking about that verse again. “Count. It. ALL. JOY.”

And I started writing. “count”….one to one correspondence…each… “All…every single solitary thing.” Here’s a photo of my little list…

countitalljoy

I work with young students who can struggle with counting. One to one correspondence is a crucial skill for students to learn to accurately and truly count, for so many times, they will lump counters together and miss the “each” part. It’s imperative to count each item. So, I decided, I’d really try to count “EACH” bit of the “ALL” in this situation. I’d separate it and acknowledge it…joyfully? Well, I’d at least try.

I was doing real well, at first at least. The mechanic came and said he could help us and was really impressed that we were okay after he saw where the tire was on the highway and where we were. He started working and I thought, “Yep, I can count this as joy. I can have a good attitude…”
And then, “Ma’am?”
Uh-oh.
“Ma’am, I can’t loosen this lugnut. It’s just not going to budge.” I might just need to tow you to the nearest garage to have it worked on. Well, my wheels were turning then as I realized it was Sunday night and just before 6:00, and that there were probably very few places open. Frustration was rising for sure. But my son was watching and listening, and I was very aware that how I responded really mattered. We had prayed in the car not just for us but for the mechanic and the situation, and I knew that it was time to truly count it ALL joy.

Right about that time, as I was standing on the side of a busy interstate with a mechanic, we saw a large blue work truck riding down the road, beeping it’s horn loudly as the driver waved his arms. “Well, I think they’re coming for us”, the mechanic smiled. Long story short, they were. It was a new state program that helped stranded travelers (a.k.a. me and Tanner) with their vehicles. And guess what? They had a machine, you know, like the one NASCAR uses, to loosen the lug nut. JOY. Pure Joy.

As the mechanic and I waited for the newest ‘crew’ to fix the tire, I showed him my “Count. It. All. Joy.” list. As I pointed to the word “ALL”, I said, “I think lugnut goes right about here…” And as I remember his smile I can’t help but think we all felt Joy. Pure Joy.

So, “ALL”? It’s a word that is ALL-encompassing. The “Counting it ALL joy” includes immovable lugnuts and pancreatitis and diversions in our days. It includes heart-aches and sickness, and bills and broken things. It includes ALL the nitty gritty details of our lives. And what gives us the JOY? The inviting God to be in ALL of it with us. WITH us. And He takes the brokenness, and the diversions, and the struggles…and fills the void with HIMSELF. He fills the voids as we invite Him in and carries us in ways that we couldn’t imagine, and that truly brings joy. Surprising, beautiful joy! ALL joy…

Oh, and an addendum to the story? Remember the pancreatitis? Well, its onset was the catalyst for some very really changes in my son’s life. For the cause, the very thing which brought on the pancreatitis in my son’s life…is now gone. Gone. And I am so counting it all joy. I’m thanking God even for pancreatitis and how He can use ANYthing, ALL things, to deliver and free up and fill. Every, single, solitary thing.

“Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than ALL we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” Ephesians 3:20-21

Amen.

With Joy~
Heather