What an amazing morning! This morning in my quiet time with the Lord I was reminded that we are not alone; He is always near. “We praise you, God, we praise you, for your Name is near; people tell of your wonderful deeds.” (Ps. 75:1) Imagine if after reaching out to save us, God left us to work out this salvation of ours with “fear and trembling” all by ourselves. But, no, “it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill His good purpose” (Phil 2:13). It is His Spirit within us, nearer than our next breath, that both equips and encourages us to keep waging this battle of daily life. He’s near when we call, near when we need Him, near when we stumble, near all the time. He wants to come alongside us and be within us to help.

The Lord gives us the desire and the power to do what pleases Him. The secret to a changed life is to submit to God’s control and let Him work. To change our desires to be more like Christ’s, we need the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit. “For I know that as you pray for me and the Spirit of Jesus Christ helps me, this will lead to my deliverance.” (Phil. 1:19) We also need the influence of faithful Christians, obedience to God’s Word (not just exposure to it), and sacrificial service. Often it is in the doing of God’s will that we gain the desire to do it. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.” (Phil. 4:8-9) We are to do what He wants and trust Him to change our desires.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss shares a story from a woman who had attended a weekend retreat where they had erected a life-size model of the tabernacle for people to walk through. She wrote trying to describe how the experience of stepping into the symbolic Holy of Holies had impacted her. “I was overwhelmed,” she said, “realizing so vividly again that I don’t have to risk death when coming into God’s presence like the Israelites did.” The thick curtain of separation has been torn in two, top to bottom. Through what Christ did for us on the cross, we can now draw near to God.

I have a hearty suggestion for anyone who is having trouble finding joy now. Give yourself a gift, buy the book Choosing Gratitude: Your Journey to Joy” and read it (where much of what I have shared today comes from–that and my Life Application Study Bible). Choose joy in this season by choosing gratitude. God is near. Let us be grateful!