If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. I John 15:10-11
Sometimes, it’s not what people want that gets them into trouble. It’s when their desires, even noble ones, become the center of their lives and the source of their joy. Their wellbeing becomes dependent on whether or not those things come to pass. If they do, they can be happy. If they don’t, there’s frustration and spiritual depression.
As people of God, we dream of everyone we love embracing Jesus the way we do. We desire every family member to abide in Christ. We want sons to follow Jesus. We want daughters to thrive under the righteous leadership of their husbands. We want grandchildren to see God in their parents so they will be naturally attracted to their faith. We want family members to be healthy. We want parents to live a long life and fulfill all their dreams. All of these are good things but it’s easy to take on these dreams as our mandate to make them happen. We are crusaders on a mission. We invest our prayers, our love, our mentoring skills, even our finances, to help loved ones thrive. But the clock ticks slowly. People don’t change overnight, and while in process, they don’t always choose well. That’s bad news if we are making their wellbeing our joy. As they continue to languish, we languish. If we see them make bad choices, our joy is deferred as we pray that tomorrow will be a better day. And quite frankly, it’s easy to pray for everyone else and forget to pray for myself.
If this is my way of life, my joy is only possible if I see things moving in the right direction. On a good day, I can relax and enjoy feelings of hope in the moment. But at the next crisis, my hope plummets. Joy dies another death. I’m on a perpetual roller coaster of waiting for things to change. I’m a captive, not a conqueror.
The epiphany for me lately has been this. Whether or not I have inexpressible joy cannot depend on the outcome of things going well. Joy is to be found in the enjoyment of God. I was created to enjoy Him forever. And here’s the thing. Enjoyment of God and spiritual depression are mutually exclusive. I cannot engage in both at the same time. So when I wake up in the morning and my stomach churns because I don’t know what the day is going to bring, I’ve already laid a foundation for spiritual depression. I’ve placed my hope in human outcome.
My mornings need to be focused on the praise and worship of a God whom I enjoy. He is my delight. With Him as my focus and with a holy calm that is mine as a result, good news will be the icing on the cake. And if there’s bad news? It cannot take me down because His joy is my strength and the grace of His presence makes me resilient.
My hope has been deferred for a better tomorrow. Joy has been elusive. Show me how to appropriate all of this into my daily life until there are spiritual endorphines. Amen