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Joy in the Midst of Mud

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My six year old daughter has been a firecracker since the day she was born. She came into the world refusing to utter that first cry. Yes, even crying and taking her first breath had to be coaxed out of her. She is all energy and giggles mixed with the stubbornness of a mule. And no one would ever accuse her of being short on ideas.
One of her favorite ideas is getting dirty. When I found out I was pregnant with a girl, my mom assured me that my daughter would be a sweet little angel, all darling and demure, compared to her older brother. In this case, Mama was not right. My daughter is far more “free-spirited” in the cleanliness department than my son. While he can hardly stand having sidewalk chalk dust on his hands, she has no problem sprawling out on top of her colorful, chalky creations.
So yes, her motto would be “Dirt doesn’t hurt.” And as you know, spring comes with its share of dirt in the form of mud. In Minnesota the snow does eventually melt into puddles, and the earth thaws, giving up its storehouse of frozen water. My daughter likes to take full advantage of the spring thaw.
At a baseball game last month, she managed to find every possible puddle. She ran around with a friend, shoes encrusted with mud, happy as can be. When she was tired of running, she rolled down a hill like a log. This hill was literally leaking, so she was really just rolling down some mud. She was muddy from her face to her shoes. Washing her clothes from this excursion is a whole other story. Everything was filthy. If you ask me, she is mostly nuts, and I say that in a loving way. For me, I’d have to be crazy to get that muddy.
You know, King David actually had a time when he acted nuts. David was on the run from former king, Saul. He stopped at the city of Gath and went to see King Achish. While he was waiting, the king’s officers grumbled about David’s presence there. They spoke of his victory over his enemies and the fact that he had slayed way more men than Saul.
What was David’s reaction to their conversation? He became afraid. In 1 Samuel 21:12-13 (NLT) we read, “David heard these comments and was very afraid of what King Achish of Gath might do to him. So he pretended to be insane, scratching on doors and drooling down his beard.” As a result King Achish dismissed the “madman” and scolded his guards for bringing David in to see him.
David wrote Psalm 34 after this “crazy” incident. In this Psalm, he expressed the Lord’s greatness and ability to rescue those who call on Him. In verses three and four he wrote, “I prayed to the Lord, and He answered me. He freed me from all my fears. Those who look to Him for help will be radiant with joy; no shadow of shame will darken their faces.”
David was afraid in the presence of King Achish. But he knew an important nugget of truth: God alone can free you from your fears. And life is full of fears, some that are legitimate and some that we create and build up in our own minds. It doesn’t matter where it comes from; fear can make you feel crazy. But just as verse three says, God always answers, and He has the power to cast out your fears.
Freedom from fear is not all that God can or wants to do. David also knew that true joy comes from God. So in the midst of intense fear and worry, God gives us joy. This joy from God makes you radiant, because it comes from the inside out. And even though you may feel like the shame of your past or the short comings of your present are too dark, this joy can still shine through. In fact, those who look to the Lord will no longer be darkened by sin and shame. Nothing can shadow the joy of God. Nothing can “muddy” the radiance He alone can give.
And even though we mess up and get things dirty, like my daughter who loves to stomp in puddles, God can be trusted to answer us when we call and can make us shine like the stars in the sky (Philippians 2:15). It’s like God has His own laundry detergent: Radiant Joy.

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