Backwards Math


Wanna know what the secret to joy in the Christian life is?

Every year, countless sermons, devotionals, and blogs dole out steps to inching closer to this elusive emotion. With images of smiling faces, quiet tables set with cups of steaming coffee, and beautiful flowers in graceful vases, the stage for joy is set.

Or perhaps the images that come to your mind include laughter, with a person jumping into the air with a happiness that literally levitates them.

It looks good.

It sounds fun.

Yeah…sure. I want that brand of joy.

But here’s the thing – what if the stage of your life looks nowhere near those peaceful, laughter-filled pictures? What if your stage is a literal mess, and peace and quiet (at least not like those images project) just don’t live in your home?

What if everything you want is right there in front of you, but you’ve been so blinded by the standards of this world that you have convinced yourself it is not nearly enough?

What if you discover that the mark you’re aiming at isn’t actually the bullseye you need?

Those are hard equations to solve. And let me tell you, earthly math just won’t get you where you want to go. The equation will never balance. Trust me, I’ve tried. No matter how hard you work to plug in the right numbers, God’s math is always different. His scales are not weighed by the world’s standards.

In fact, He often used His “backwards” math to reveal the only way to arrive at the destination we all long for.

Check it out…

“But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things – and the things that are not – to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him.”

1 Corinthians 1:27-29


These concepts of losing to win, giving up to gain, laying down to truly take hold – they seem crazy. They even feel backwards. But I can testify with my whole heart (because I am walking them out) that they work.

The “math” of God is powerful and He balances the equations of this life with a holy exclamation point.

The rich sell their possessions…to gain eternity (Luke 19:1-10).

The weak rejoice in their strength…to gain perspective (2 Corinthians 12:7-10).

To die….to gain (Philippians 1:20-21).

To lose your life…to save your soul (Mark 8:34-36).

Confounding? Sure. Awkward? Absolutely. True? You bet it is.

“For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written: ‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.’”

1 Corinthians 1: 18-19


Do you see the pattern? I do. And I see it in the choices I am now making in my life – choices that don’t always make sense to the crowd around me. But that’s ok. I no longer need them to applaud the focus of my aim. They are not my audience or who I am aiming to please.

But these choices are multiplying into a lifestyle that looks for the glorious in the mundane, the receiving in the loss, the kindness of God in the midst of the hard.

I’m ok with those equations. I am ok because the cup that may look empty in the eyes of the world is actually overflowing with the revelation and goodness of the Lord. And THAT is a very good thing!

 “It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God – that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: ‘Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.’”

1 Corinthians 1:30-31

So, what does all this backwards math have to do with joy?

Good question, actually. I am asking the same one. I believe it has everything to do with joy. Because if we really want to get our hands around joy, we have to first be willing to let go of all that we think we need in order to achieve it.


Let me say it this way – we gotta be willing to lose our lives if we truly want to save them. Embrace the backwards-ness of this high calling and run, my friends, headlong into the joy of the Lord that truly is our strength!

The song I want to share with you today is from Unspoken, entitled, “Life in the Death of Me.” This song is often turned up LOUD as I drive my kiddos around town for different events. It’s a great song about perspective and where real life really comes from…the death of ourselves.

As you listen, I pray your heart is drawn deeper into His, reassured once again of His goodness, His mercy, and His Presence in your life.


With joy for the journey,