How can one experience joy in the midst of evil, disappointments, and trying situations?
The prophet Habakkuk lived in evil times and was perplexed with the silence and forbearance of a holy God that allowed evil to continue. In his prayer to God, he said this, “Though the fig tree may not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines; Though the labor of the olive may fail, and the fields yield no food; Though the flock may be cut off from the fold, and there be no herd in the stalls— Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation” (Hab. 3:17-18).
Well, you might say, “Good for him”.
One Chronicles 16:27 says that glory and honor are in God’s presence and strength and gladness are in His place (sanctuary, dwelling). True joy can’t be MANufactured. You may be able to ‘put on a happy face’ but true joy is something deeper. It can only be acquired by tapping into the fruit of the Spirit which comes from God (Gal. 5:22). It seems that strength and the joy of the Lord go together. Nehemiah 8:10 declares, “For the joy of the Lord is your strength” (defense, refuge).
How does one access or increase in their joy of the Lord?
The prophet Isaiah gives us a hint, “The oppressed shall increase their joy in the Lord” (Isa. 29:19). Why the oppressed? When one is oppressed, they’re in a position to receive something more powerful than themselves. Striving in our own strength and trying to control the uncontrollable leaves us frustrated, tired, and grumpy. When we think that we don’t need God or can manage just fine on our own, thank you, we set ourselves up for Satan to come in with his fiery darts and attack. The apostle Paul pleaded with the Lord three times to remove his ‘thorn in the flesh’, but instead God responded, “My grace is sufficient for you: for My strength is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:7-9). Paul realized and was more than glad to glory in his infirmities knowing that the power of Christ would rest upon him. “Therefore, I take pleasure (joy) in infirmities, insults, necessities, persecutions, and distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Cor. 12:9-10). No matter his circumstances Paul could be content while empowered through Christ’s strength (Phil. 4:11-13).
The ultimate example is found in Christ Jesus, “Who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross” (Heb. 12:2). What was the joy set before Him that He focused on in order to withstand the excruciating pain He experienced on the cross? It was God’s ultimate purpose and the glory that would follow (1 John 3:8-9, Eph. Phil. 2:8-11, 1 Cor. 15:57).
What joy is set before us?
It’s conceivable to endure a prolonged, cold winter when our sights are set on a warmer, sunnier season ahead.
It’s possible to get through a long work week when the weekend is in view (TGIF).
We can survive lengthy, arduous travel when we know that our destination will be desirable.
As Christians we possess an even greater hope with a most glorious destination that our sights can be set on while we forebear hard times, evil and suffering.
The truth of the matter is this: The joy that’s set before us can be found where our citizenship is and where our Savior (the risen Christ) sits at God’s right hand. This is where we’ll appear with Him in glory (Phil. 3:20-21, Col. 3:1, 4). As our focus is properly placed, we’ll be more than conquerors through Him who loves us (Rom. 8:37). So, when we’re hard-pressed on every side, we will not be crushed; When we’re perplexed, we will not despair; When we’re persecuted, we know that we’re not forsaken; When we’re struck down, we will not be destroyed. We can get through all these scenarios because we have this amazing treasure in our bodies of dust that give us a power of excellence from God that sustains us (2 Cor. 4:7-9). We can suffer long with joy because we are strengthened with the might and power of His glorious grace (Eph. 3:20, 6:10). Our all-bountiful El Shaddai will supply (fulfill, accomplish) our every need according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:19). So, we will not lose heart or become discouraged because although outwardly we are perishing, our inward man is being fueled by the only truly renewable resource (2 Cor. 4:16, Col. 3:10). For our temporary light affliction is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory (2 Cor. 4:17-18). We can join Habakkuk and say, “I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation.”
“Rejoice in the Lord always: and again, I say, Rejoice. Let your forbearance be known unto all men” as you’re strengthened with His almighty, glorious power unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness (Phil. 4:4-5, Col. 1:11).
May you go forward in this new year in the Joy of the Lord!