“Lord, you have assigned me my portion and my cup; my lot is secure.The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance.” Psalm 16:5-6
When I look back over the days of my life, and the road I have traveled, the blessings that have been poured out in my life: the awesome family, the great friends, the wonderful opportunities for service, a delightful and rewarding walk with Jesus, I have so many reasons to be thankful. If I allow myself to compare my life with others, I almost feel guilty. Of course, that is the wrong response. The only appropriate responses to God’s rich blessings are gratitude and praise and joy.
When counting my blessings I cannot decipher the why, only the Who. God is sovereign over my life. He has chosen to deal with me by his grace and mercy, for His glory and my good. He has allowed me to know him, love him, enjoy him and serve him. With the psalmist I can testify: “I said to my Lord, ‘you are my Lord, apart from you, I have no good thing.’” (16:2)
I have often failed to live up to those blessings, and have had to deal with seasons of guilt and regret. Those are not joyful days. But my reading of Scripture tells me that those times are meant to be short. God has laid out for me the way to rid my soul of the weight of my sin. (Psalm 32:1-5) He takes no delight in my “bones wasting away” through my “groaning all day long,” or my strength being “sapped as in the heat of summer.” (3-4) When I confess my sin to the Lord, he will forgive the guilt of my sin. (Psalm 32:5)
No, he has another emotion that he wants to dominate my existence. It is Joy! Not a scattered or unattached joy: a joy that is found only in Him. My God is the most satisfied, happy, fulfilled, joyful Person in the universe. He has no regrets. He has no needs. He is completely, fully, eternally, and in all other ways, JOYFULL! He created me to share in that joy. The rich and multiple blessings that come to me flow from an overflow of the fountain of His happiness. They come in practical ways so that I can “taste and see that the Lord is good.” (Psalm 34:8).
But, the tough times are also designed with the same purpose. They are given to help me turn from the troubles of this world to the One who “is near the brokenhearted,” “who saves those who are crushed in spirit.” (Psalm 34:18) In other words, God has intended that that his joy would be my joy in every situation. That is why Nehemiah could declare, “The joy of the Lord is our strength.” (Nehemiah 8:10)
If we have any awareness outside of our own selfish interests or chained to a political dogma, we know we are living in troubling times. Our country is deeply divided. Hatred and anger seem to dominate. Complaints and bitterness drown out gratitude and thanksgiving. Covid-19 restrictions have clamped down and prevent us from the many pleasures we once freely enjoyed. The bad guys too often seem to be winning.
It is hard to find anything going on in our country today that generates celebration. Many, even believers, struggle with emotions of frustration, anger, depression and hopelessness. To speak of joy at a time like this seems so unrealistic, even hypocritical. But, our God remains above the fray. His sovereign joy is unaffected and unabated by our troubles here on earth, whatever their source, intensity or length.
There is something going on behind the scenes, in the heavens, that surrounds us here on earth. God remains good. Apart from him we have no good thing. He constantly directs all of life and especially my life, for good. JOY, not hate, not frustration, not depression, not hopelessness, should rule my life here. I need to take hold of the scruff of my neck and preach that crucial truth to my wimpy soul. I need to get hold of my thoughts and confront them: “Why are you downcast O my soul, why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God for I will yet praise Him, my savior and my God!” (Psalm 42:5)
The Joy of the Lord should be the flag that flies over our lives, even in the midst of revolution. Somehow, I have to learn how to fight for the welfare of my country, the freedom of my religion, the safety of my familiy, and the attacks of my enemy, in the calm assurance that the God of eternal joy is still ruling over my life and my country. And, when it comes time for this battle and all battles to end, I can face that moment with confidence, for he “has made known to me the path of life.” He, “will fill me with joy in his presence, with eternal pleasures at his right hand.” (Psalm 16:11) Joy is the flag that flies over all that is, for my God is a God of joy.