I received a note a number of years ago from a friend who had spent a year walking through what she described as a very challenging season in her life – a dark night of the soul. She shared about family members who had faced significant health issues. There had been conflict in her local church that had ultimately ended with her husband and her deciding they couldn’t stay. On top of it all, she was facing what is a parent’s greatest heartache – her young adult son had abandoned his faith and was living as a prodigal.
Here’s how she described the year she had just lived through.
“The heat of our trials in the past year was cranked up to temperatures in which I began to experience a crisis of faith. How could what we were going through be brought about by a good God? Does He care? Does God not even exist? And if He doesn’t … well, the ramifications would be great. Everything I am – my beliefs, convictions, my marriage, my everything comes from my faith in God.
“These questions – this crisis of faith – all started in December. It was amazing to me to see how a trial brought on by my own child’s rebellion could bring so much doubt and disbelief.
“But God is faithful. Even when I wrestled with doubts, fears, and disbelief, He didn’t let me go. Even though I do not understand why He didn’t answer my countless prayers for my children in the way I had wanted Him to, He is the Potter. We are the clay.
“Furthermore, if someone had looked at my husband’s life and mine when we were young, they never would have guessed what God would do in our lives. He wasn’t done writing our story, and He’s not done writing theirs. This has been of comfort to me.
“The trials have not gone away. In fact, they have only multiplied. Instead of having one prodigal son, we now have two. Our hearts are broken and we have seen our many failings as parents, and yet we know that God is Sovereign, and we are praying that He will grant them a godly repentance that leads unto life. While that is our desperate cry and hope, we know that God is still good no matter what He may bring.”
I love how she concluded her note to me:
“I’m not going to allow my prodigals to steal my joy or my service! In fact, by His grace, I have felt a deeper relationship, love, and affection for the Lord than I have felt in a long time. While the trial has not gone away, I have more peace than I have felt in a long time. I know it sounds contradictory, but it’s true.”
We read passages in scripture that tell us to rejoice always and to count it all joy when we encounter trials, and it’s easy for us to dismiss those passages and unrealistic or inauthentic. Are we supposed to simply pretend to be joyful or at peace? Maybe you’ve met Christians who are faking it, thinking that it’s unspiritual to lament or to grieve or to be discouraged (one has to wonder if those Christians have ever read the Psalms!).
The biblical call to “rejoice in the Lord always” is not a call to pretend that our pain is not real or that it doesn’t hurt. It’s a call for us to fight for joy in the midst of hard and painful circumstances.
Are there circumstances in your life that have robbed you of your joy?
When joy seems far off, what do you do?
You move closer to God. You consider again His attributes and His ways. You meditate on these things day and night.
Phil 3:1 says we rejoice – we find our joy – in the Lord. Or as David, who faced many trials and who has lots of reasons to be discouraged and depressed said in Psalm 16:11:
“ in your presence there is fullness of joy;
at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”
When the Apostle Paul wrote to the church at Philippi, he exhorted them to let their “manner of life be worthy of the gospel” (Phil. 1:27). That’s a sobering exhortation. Does our manner of life reflect the transformation that the gospel brings in our lives?
One way we live a life worthy of the gospel is by fighting for joy, finding our joy in the Lord, and then letting that joy overflow from our lives into the lives of others.
Sin can bring enjoyment for a season. But that enjoyment is counterfeit. It fades. And it leaves you with emptiness and shame. It can never bring real joy. Sin moves us away from God, not closer to Him.
Please note. The word “rejoice” is a verb, not a noun. It’s not primarily a feeling. It is something we choose to do.
And what does it look like? How do we “rejoice in the Lord?”
We worship. We praise. We sing. We speak. We express out loud God’s worth. We find our joy is in Jesus and the gospel. That’s the source of our joy.
And our joy is not only in Jesus. It is to Jesus – we express our joy to Him.
If you lack joy – and most of us can point to reasons why joy seems far off right now – take time to meditate and reflect on God’s character and His goodness. But don’t stop there. Sing about it. Speak it out loud. Pray prayers of thanksgiving to God for who He is and all He’s done. Tell others about the greatness of our God.
And see if that doesn’t begin to restore the joy of your salvation to you.
REDEEMER HOLY LAND TOUR
Okay, it’s happening. Here’s the link you’ve been waiting for. Details of the Redeemer Holy Land Tour, scheduled for next May. Click above to review our itinerary.
We’ll have brochures available at church Sunday. In the next few weeks, we’ll plan a meeting for those who have questions and want to learn more about the tour.
And if you even think you’re interested, consider applying for a passport now. It’s taking as long as 18 weeks to get your passport approved or renewed. You can find out more about applying here.
When the Jews who had come to Jerusalem for the Passover celebration heard that Jesus was on His way to town, they flooded out to see Him and cheer Him on, believing their King had come. Indeed He had – it was just not the King they were expecting. The donkey was the giveaway.
We’re back in John 12 this Sunday.
See you in church.
Soli Deo Gloria!