Tag Archive for 'joy'

You better be joyful, or else…

Based on the biblical teaching, I would go so far as to say that it is the Christian’s duty, his moral obligation, to be joyful. That means that the failure of a Christian to be joyful is a sin, that unhappiness and a lack of joy are, in a certain way, manifestations of the flesh.

–R.C. Sproul, Can I Have Joy in My Life?

First off, I like R.C. Sproul and think he’s a great teacher.

But I think this can lead to being judged in a bad way. For those who deal with chronic depression, it may be near impossible, while still being a genuine Christian who is working out their salvation. I deal with that, and am able to feel joy, but you may not see it. Will people judge me because of this? There are also periods in one’s life when they don’t feel joy. Hopefully they will have the hope that they will have joy, as the Psalmists did, but even hope can be hard to come by at times.

I don’t have the book, so I don’t know if there’s context that would change what it sounds like as it is. But the quote is out there.

I would balance this with some quotes from Good News for Anxious Christians by Philip Cary, which I do have. Forgive me for any typos, and let me know.

The terrible vulnerability of our feelings is particularly evident in the psychological affliction we call depression, who’s victims are unable to feel joy or any strong emotion. [I wouldn’t call myself a victim.]

The idea that Christians are supposed to have a deep inner joy all the time is a terribly cruel notion. The idea itself is what’s cruel: it turns the people who wish to comfort the afflicted [better term] into tormentors. They want to help their suffering friends get the joy back, but in the process, they insist that their friends accept the underlying idea that it’s not normal for Christian life to experience deep suffering of the heart. So in addition to their suffering, their friends are wounded by the suggestion that their affliction is due to some failure in their Christian life–as if there’s something wrong with Christians who have a cross to bear.

[T]he promises of Christ can be turned into slogans, so that instead of promising that suffering shall come to an end–as the Cross of Christ leads to resurrection–the message is that suffering is unacceptable. [That’s what the afflicted may perceive.] What also happens is that Biblical exhortations such as the apostle’s words, “Rejoice in the Lord always!” (Phil 4:4) are turned into a kind of a command, even a kind of condemnation. Instead of inviting us to joy, they demand that we be joyful, or else.

Coincidentally, I came up with the subject line for this post before I typed out the quote.

In the book I wrote this: “For people who say this [you must always be joyful]: are they also never anxious (Philippians 4:6) or praying continually (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18) as Paul also ‘invites’ us to do? Take out the plank.” And while you’re at it, don’t ever be anxious. It’s a command.

I realize this is a tough issue, and I think both of these authors aren’t as dogmatic as they sound.

I believe that we can always be joyful in what Jesus has done for us on the Cross, as I’ve written about in the past. (That post is important for how I feel about experiencing joy.) When there is deep suffering though, especially if it’s chronic, even this can be very difficult. Also, as I alluded to above, some of us have what’s call a “low affect” where we don’t show much emotion, even though we may feel it (and can sometimes lead to it spilling out, which can be embarrassing). I’ve had people try to get me to smile–“Oh come on, you can smile [dumb joke here]”, and I just don’t feel like it. I’m not a puppet who is going to make someone feel better because they don’t like the idea that someone can be afflicted in that way. It scares them. Or they just want me to feel better because they care, but don’t understand. I suppose the former what is a little cynical.

D. Martin Lloyd Jones, in his book Spiritual Depression (which I read as a library book, so I’m paraphrasing), wrote that part of the reason non-Christians aren’t as attracted to Christianity as they could be is because they don’t see joy in them. I think he wrote something about there being an epidemic of glum Christians. But he also acknowledged that there are those who experience chronic depression for a variety of reasons. He was only addressing the truly spiritual aspect of it, if that can even be divided from other factors. He was way ahead of his time (and the Puritans even more so, by hundreds of years), and I think he had the right balance.

This post is at about most people’s attention span, including mine, so I better end it here. I just wanted to hopefully give some perspective and balance to this very difficult subject. Let’s be careful out there, whatever your spiritual, emotional and physical health may be.

Always Be Joyful

Always be joyful.
1 Thessalonians 5:16

I was sitting in a chair at the pharmacy waiting for one of my medications. The cashier said, “Can I help the next person?” I asked this guy which of us was there first, knowing that I probably was but wanting to be polite. He said, “Well I’ve been waiting a long time” (so was I!) and just went ahead of me. Another woman who didn’t have all of her marbles was there and her name was called by the pharmacist in back saying that hers was ready. I tried to politely in a roundabout way tell her that my name had been called quite a while ago. But when the cashier was ready, she just walked right up there.

It’s painful for me to sit or stand because of my lower back pain. Walking is less painful, until chronic fatigue kicks in, but then I’d lose my place.

By the time I got home I was pretty miffed at my lack of assertiveness and how people just went in front of me and how much pain it causes, especially because this was on the way home from a doctor appointment.

My first thought was–what Jesus went through isn’t even comparable to waiting at a store. What I went through was absolutely nothing. But where is the joy in that? I still feel grumpy. So then I thought about the results of what Jesus did for me on the cross, God resurrecting him, and the Holy Spirit and whole of the Trinity residing in me. Getting to know and love God has been increasingly great (John 17:3). What a great thing that is! That’s something to be joyful about. So I thought about that, which is Scriptural. I think we need to let Scripture constantly inform us. If we work on things using our own reasoning, we start to think of things that we think we should think about, but God may steer us in a different direction, in one way or another through the truth of His Word, at some time or another. Reason #47 to memorize Scripture.

I can also be joyful and thankful that because of this situation God taught me something and further revealed another aspect of being joyful. This is a minor situation. The major ones will be more difficult. Praise God that He teaches us through his Holy Spirit with the truth of His Word.

God wants us to be patient in everything and be glad that we are in His Kingdom.

Colossians 1:11-12 NRSV
May you be made strong with all the strength that comes from his glorious power, and may you be prepared to endure everything with patience, while joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light.

I love the NRSV’s rendering of that and often hang onto it. In any situation, we can look up and be joyful in what we have in God.

Colossians 3:1-3 NRSV
So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.

If we are sorrowful upon any worldly account, yet still we may always rejoice [spiritual joy; in God]

–Matthew Henry

For further reading, based on Psalm 73:

book-faith-on-trial Martin Lloyd-Jones

Suffering, Grace and Joy

I’m not having a good day. Yesterday was even worse. These days come up without warning. Those of you who deal with this “mental” stuff know what I mean. As for you happy people, we need you too as long as you’re not too obnoxious.

Don’t be alarmed, but I was watching a TV show where at the end they had a message about suicide. It said, “If you or a loved one are thinking about suicide, please call…” If I called every time I thought about it I think they’d get pretty tired of hearing from me.

(As much as I want to get face to face with God, I will not ever commit suicide and I’ve been as low as low can go. I have fantasized about it and ruminated on it but I’ve been able to stay out of the ‘abyss’ for the most part for quite a while, thank God.)

Edit: If you are thinking about suicide and haven’t yet dealt with it or talked with anyone about it, please get help. Go to www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org, call 1-800-273-TALK, talk to a trusted friend or a pastor who understands. If they aren’t helpful, talk with someone else. These thoughts are what Satan wants you to think. (John 10:10).

While I was praying today, during the portion when I thank God, I was overwhelmed with gratitude (which isn’t nearly a strong enough word) for the fact that God chose me to be included in His family (Colossians 1:12-14). There is no reason to choose me, I don’t teach, lead, pastor, write books, evangelize much etc. But for some reason He chose me. God even provided me with the faith to believe, and gave me His Holy Spirit before I was able to understand and believe the gospel message. These things are obvious to me both in experience and in Scripture. (John 17:2, Acts 13:48, Romans 9:16, Ephesians 1:4-5, 2 Timothy 1:9 to name a few that might be a little off the beaten path for some)

To think that God sacrificed His Son to take away our sins is beyond comprehension. (Romans 3:25-26, Romans 8:32, Romans 4:25)

God has provided me with so many things to be thankful for including joy in the midst of suffering. It’s a very strange thing. I’d rather just have the joy, and some happiness along with it would be good too.

Praise God for joy. I don’t know what we would do without it.

I hope this didn’t sound too much like “me and my salvation” as N.T. Wright would put it. But as bloggers we write about our experiences.

Birthdays

For most of my adult life I’ve hated it when my birthday comes around. Suffering from mental health ailments which also have physical effects have made life difficult. In addition, my back has developed degenerative conditions over the last few years. I’ve had to give up quite a few things, many of which are various forms of exercise I’ve been so serious about since middle school years. (I still do what little exercise I can.)

There are a few reasons I don’t like my birthdays, the main one being that I (used to) wish I hadn’t been born. Life is too difficult and this world is fraught with evil and suffering. I seem to see the world through darkly colored glasses.

Last year at this time I was starting to feel “the dread” because I always get more depressed as it gets closer.

At that time I was going through 2 Corinthians and was looking closely at 4:17 which I’m familiar with in the NIV:

2 Corinthians 4:17 NIV
For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.

But looking at the verse in other translations gave me a fresh perspective:

2 Corinthians 4:17 NASB
For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison,

2 Corinthians 4:17 NRSV
For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure,

If I were to say that the glory in heaven will be 900 trillion tons and our suffering here, as bad as it can be (and I know mine is much less than many), is like one tenth of a gram, that wouldn’t show enough of a difference because that isn’t “beyond all measure.”

So last year God was teaching me to hope for heaven—when we are clothed with our heavenly bodies (1 Corinthians 15:53-54) and dwell in the new heaven and the new earth (2 Peter 3:13)—and have faith that when that time comes around, it will have been more than worth it and I will be very glad that I was born so that I could be with God forever seeing Him face to face (1 Corinthians 13:12).

It doesn’t make this life much easier but I need to ask God to give me the grace to have faith that it will be as He says it will be (2 Corinthians 1:20-22) and experience the hope for heaven in this life.

This year God is teaching me that it is His will for me to have been born and to live for Him. In the past, I knew it was His will for me to stay alive. Not to be morbid but what I mean is not to kill myself. That isn’t for me to decide, as much as I wanted to at some points in the past. But now, more than that, He’s teaching me that it’s His will for me to have been born in the first place (Psalm 139:16). And it is His will for me to be born again (John 1:13).

I’ve come to embrace this with joy, even if I don’t usually feel happy. And I’m certain that without suffering God wouldn’t have matured me spiritually as He has so far.

I’m taking a big risk in writing this personal information. Spurgeon and Luther were candid so why shouldn’t I be? I’m certain many of my blogging friends are or were in a place of similar or greater suffering. Some aren’t able to disclose for many reasons.

I’m not writing this for sympathy because I feel like I’ve had the opportunity to grow more than most and as worldly things have fallen away, my zeal for God and getting to know Him through Scripture has increased exponentially.

God works through suffering and I thought I’d write briefly about it here. It’s definitely a subject of interest for me. (I almost wrote that it’s one of my favorite subjects. That’s not quite the right way of putting it!)

I don’t like “Happy Birthdays” but if you’d like to give me a present (other than a book of course*) nothing would be better than praying that God would continue to teach me about Himself (Ephesians 1:17) and to find more and more joy in this (Romans 15:13).

My prayer for anyone reading this post:

Hebrews 13:20-21
Now may the God of peace—
who brought up from the dead our Lord Jesus,
the great Shepherd of the sheep,
and ratified an eternal covenant with his blood—
may he equip you with all you need
for doing his will.
May he produce in you,
through the power of Jesus Christ,
every good thing that is pleasing to him.

All glory to him forever and ever! Amen.

I hope this post isn’t too self-centered. I’d like to read it a year from now and thought it might be of benefit to someone else out there.

*I usually hate asking for things but it seems customary for bibliobloggers to make shameless requests for material goods when their birthday comes around, or whenever they feel greedy. (I eschew smilies.) So I thought I’d throw that in there. But really, prayer would bless me the most and be the best present I could get. And don’t feel like you need to comment. E-mail me with any prayer requests you have.

God Is Joyful

I often forget that God is a joyful God and how much joy He experiences in us.

Zephaniah 3:17
The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.