We are living in troubled times. (That’s the understatement of the year.) COVID-19 (the Coronavirus disease) is very likely troubling you in some way or another. Whether you or someone you know or love is sick from it, or you’re questioning the origins of it, or the overreaching responses to it, or you’re worried about the likely consequences of these life-altering responses to it, troubles are very likely affecting your thoughts and/or your life.
Interestingly, we as individuals are not the only people who are living in these troubled times—everyone else is too. What about true Christian believers? Yes, all of us believers are sharing and shouldering the burdens of these troubled times.
Speaking only to believers: are you feeling lower now than you’ve ever felt before in your life? Maybe you’ve been down before but you’ve always managed to somehow “feel” better. But what about today? Has this been the longest period of sustained melancholy you’ve felt so far in your life?
Well, you’re certainly not alone. Usually, when we face difficulties in life, we can be encouraged by others who have faced the same or similar difficulties in their own lives, and yet have managed to make it through those trials. They give us hope that mere mortals can survive troubles and still live to be “happy” another day.
However, today we don’t have other people to look to who have faced a similar trial to what we’re facing today, let alone have the ability to see victory on the other side through the experiences of others.
Does God know how we feel? Yes, of course He does. What is His desire for your heart and mind during the troubles of today?
“Do not sorrow, for the joy of the Lord is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10b).
“Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10).
“The LORD is my strength and song, And He has become my salvation; He is my God, and I will praise Him; My father’s God, and I will exalt Him” (Exodus 15:2).
How do we true believers, sealed by the Holy Spirit, obtain “the joy of the Lord”?
In other words, how have we managed to be truly saved yet somehow unable up to this point to be steady and sustained by the joy of the Lord?
The answer to that question depends upon what we have used during our lives to lift ourselves up and out of unhappiness. If we have at any time leaned upon worldly pleasures to patch up our sorrows, then we missed the opportunity to add the sustaining joy of the Lord to our hearts and minds. Instead, we’ve replaced His enduring joy with temporary pleasure.
Yes, a true believer still has the choice to indulge in the temporary pleasures of this world. God says that we’re capable of grieving Him even after we’re saved:
“And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption” (Ephesians 4:30).
You see, we have a choice as to how we build up our “new man” after we are saved. We can choose to add enduring and eternal joys of the Lord, or we can choose to patch in worldly pleasures instead.
“that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:22-24).
If we have been building up our new man or woman in Christ with a mixture of mostly worldly pleasures, and only a few joys of the Lord, then we’ve created an unsteady amalgamation that cannot sustain our “happiness” when our worldly pleasures are threatened.
Happiness may not always shine through our eyes and actions, but joy will:
A woman worked as a maid in the house of a mean innkeeper. One day, God saved her, and she could not hide her happiness. What used to be drudgery turned into joy. The innkeeper was furious and began to belittle her. He hated her for being happy.
Finally, he said, “You say you’re saved and I can see your joy. Can you tell me what being saved means?”
She answered, “To me, it feels as though I am standing in Jesus’ shoes, and He is standing in mine.”
Nothing is more attractive and effective at winning the lost to Christ than the joy of the Lord shining through our interactions with others, especially in times like these. Knowing that your Lord and Savior is truly walking with you every step of the way should bring you true joy.
Our challenge as believers is to lay aside the temporary pleasure and happiness that worldly comforts provide. Of course, we need to provide worldly comforts to ourselves and our families in order to survive on this planet, and to do our work for the Lord, but we must not use them to feed our happiness.
We will achieve true joy when we choose not to add the building blocks of worldly pleasures as happiness to our new man, but instead we add the building blocks of service to the Lord* as our happiness.
Then we will be building toward a steadfast joy that will remain steady in times of trouble.
The Lord Jesus says:
“These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full” (John 15:11).
Our main commission as true believers is to share the gospel of Christ with the lost world. A broken down and patched up believer is not as effective at sharing the gospel as a believer sustained by the joy of the Lord.
*The following verses describe various ways to serve the Lord:
“And He said to them, ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature’” (Mark 16:15).
“This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you” (John 15:12).
“Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:31-32).
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4).
“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).