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Time to Deal with the Beavers

Time to Deal with the Beavers

It is very challenging to experience a steady stream of uninterrupted joy in our lives. There seems to be some beavers damming up the flow. These critters become first class joy robbers who have names – Circumstance, People, Past, and Worry.

I have a friend who shared the story of the first homeowner’s association meeting he attended. The first item on the agenda was replanting trees that the beavers had chewed down to build a dam. The conversation went on and on about what trees to plant, the cost of the trees, and who would plant them. My friend could take it no more, he raised his hand and when called on blurted out, “Don’t you think we should get rid of the beavers first?”

This is conventional wisdom, common sense. If you don’t get rid of the beavers, they are going to chew down your new trees just like they did with the old ones. This line of thinking not only works quite well when talking about trees and streams but it also works quite well when it comes to our experience with joy.

  • You must deal with the beavers who dam up your flow of joy.

Well, here is the good news. Paul writes the “treatise on joy” in a little letter containing just 1629 words to the believers in Philippi. In this letter he shows us how to do it. Here’s the kicker - he is writing it while being contained under house arrest in Rome chained to a smelly Roman guard 24/7. Let’s call the guard Mr. Beaver. Not exactly a Petry dish for inner peace.

He mentions the word “joy” sixteen times in these four short chapters making it the driving theme of his letter. He also mentions the word “mindset” sixteen times. If we are going to discover the ancient secret to experiencing worry-defeating, circumstance-defying happiness, we must have the right mindset. Paul is going to give us that mindset in the form of twenty principles that will help us deal with the beavers in our lives.

Let me just give you the first joy principle. He opens the letter with these words,

I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart and, whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me. God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.

What is Paul doing? He is “praying with joy.” Several times a day he would set aside time for prayer. It wasn’t haphazard but intentional. Specifically, he is recalling happy memories he has of how the Philippians have believed in him and supported him in his work. The Philippians were the only group of people who backed him from the beginning even though Paul never asked for it.

Someone defined joy as “What I feel when I see the sparkle in someone’s eye that conveys ‘I’m happy to be with you.’” The Philippians put a sparkle in Paul’s eye, and it gave him a jolt of joy.

Current brain research tells us why what Paul is doing increases his joy despite his current circumstances. There is a small, seahorse shaped organ in our brain called the hippocampus. This is where our memories are stored. Scientist have recently discovered something quite spectacular. Whenever we recall a memory, that memory gets stronger.

What does this mean when it comes to joy. Whenever we call up a happy memory from the storage files of the hippocampus, it makes that memory stronger. When we do this in relationship with God through our prayers it raises the joy quota in our brain that permeates through our body. It literally helps us cope and even overcome the current circumstances (aka gnawing beavers) in our lives. It doesn’t necessarily make the beavers go away but keeps them from clogging the streams of joy in our lives. It is a fact of neurology that the brain cannot be in a state of appreciation and a state of fear at the same time.

Choose appreciation over fear.

I keep pictures of the Philippians in my life in both my office at home and at work. During my daily times of prayer, I simply spin around in my chair and look at these pictures and I pray with joy recalling the happy memories I have stored in my hippocampus. For example, I have the picture of the couple who invited me to church at the age of fourteen. This changed the trajectory of my life in an eternal direction. Then there is the picture of the man who opened the door for me to publish my first book when I was just thirty-four years old. There is the picture of the man who was there for me big time when our son was born missing his left hand. I could go on, but I think you get the idea.

When I recall these happy memories in prayer, it helps me to rise above the challenges I am dealing with today resulting in an increase in joy.

And here is the amazing thing – this is just one of the twenty principles and practices that Paul recommends to us under the inspiration of God.

  • Joy is available in Christ despite our circumstances, people, our past and our propensity to worry.

Time to deal with the beavers.

Watch the Video

Written for Devotionals Daily by Randy Frazee, author of The Joy Challenge.

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Your Turn

Who are Philippians in your life? Spend some time praying with joy, recalling happy memories of how they have stood by you, sat with you, believed in you, gave you a hand up, opened a door for you, laughed with you, cried with you. Close your eyes and remember the sites, the sounds, the smells. Pay them a visit if they are still alive and share this with them. Then ask yourself, did this increase our joy? ~ Devotionals Daily