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Choosing Joy

Choosing Joy

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1 Peter 1:8,9 Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

It would seem to me at times, that God really does not care about whether or not I am happy. He uses trials and pain to shape me. He asks me to abandon the desires of my flesh and He insists that I take up my cross daily to follow him. Additionally, I have heard many Christians insist that God does not care one bit if you are happy. If happiness and joy are my goals, Christianity looks grim.

To this, I think Peter would vehemently object. The language he uses paints a picture of anything but a cold, joyless faith. He says that though we cannot see God, when we keep our eyes on him in faith, we receive an inexpressible joy, filled with glory… This does not sound like a somber, miserable faith.

In the verses prior to this, Peter emphasized that life has many trials, but now, he insists that my joy should not be a product of my circumstances. He says that if I am allowing the miseries of this life to make me a miserable person, then I am doing it wrong. If I am depressed because of my trials, then my purpose and meaning are misplaced. When I believe in Christ and rest in the confidence of my salvation through him, joy follows.

This does not mean that we are insulated from or immune to pain and suffering. Being joyful in life does not mean that we never experience sadness or pain. It does mean that we have a purpose that transcends what this world can do to us.

I think much depression and anxiety stems from putting our faith, meaning and purpose in things that cannot be relied upon to deliver joy. This world and the people in it will fail us and if that is where we find our purpose and meaning, we will not know true joy. Of course, depression and anxiety are often primary flesh defects in and of themselves. They are not the product of anything more than a defective flesh nature. We all have our own defects and like my addiction, I suspect that those who suffer from depression will find that it is a defect that they must continue to work on everyday.

I am not suggesting that depression and anxiety are your choice. I am saying that (like my addiction) getting better is on you and it is your responsibility to do your part everyday to look to God, doing whatever you can to find joy in him. This may or may not involve medication and counseling to help with that daily effort.

I find that my joy is a direct byproduct of my faith, that is, my focus on God. It is in my focus on self that I am the most miserable. Thus, while I am daily focusing on God, I am automatically maintaining my joy in him. I seek God and in my seeking, I find true joy and salvation. Peter says this is not some far off promise, but rather something I know in the here and now. I tend to think of eternal life as something I get only when I die, but John says, This is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ (John 17:3).

So, the reality is not that God is disinterested in my joy and happiness. He is in fact intensely interested and desires that I find real joy in the one place that I am created to find it. I however, seek joy, purpose and meaning in all manner of fleshly pursuits that lead to my own destruction and misery. God wants me to turn from self to avoid this misery and destruction. He desires that I find the inexpressible and infallible joy that can only be found in him. It is in pursuing God that I choose joy.

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