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!



He Can Do It Be strong in the LordWhen I was growing up in the 70’s/80’s, the “Women’s Lib” movement, which started in the late 60’s, was gaining momentum & starting to become enmeshed in our lives. Most kids don’t think too much or question their culture & environment, but it’s funny how certain things get imbedded in one’s mind without even realizing it at the time. I remember a commercial for the perfume Enjoli getting stuck in my head. In this ad a beautiful woman sauntered around and sang, “I can bring home the bacon—fry it up in a pan—and never, never, never let you forget you’re a man because I’m a woman—Enjoli.” The tag line for Enjoli was: “The new 8 hour perfume for the 24 hour woman”. I grew up with 3 brothers (& a sister too) in a highly competitive family where ‘sports ruled’, being that my Dad was head of the Phys. Ed. Dept. & head football coach at our high school so naturally I was drawn to scenarios where females getting the upper hand (in any form) was appealing. With these commercials and TV shows like Charlie’s Angels being popular as well, I bought into the lie that women could do anything men could do (& look great doing it)!
If we go back to the beginning, in the garden, it was the woman who was deceived by Satan’s 3 lies, not Adam (Gen. 3:1-7, 13, 1 Tim. 2:14, 2 Cor. 11:3). Adam knowingly disobeyed God by going along with Eve without objecting as he should have (Gen. 3:6, 12, 17, Rom. 5:12). This demonstrates that even being the weaker vessel, a wife has the power to influence her husband (and not always for good) (1 Pet. 3:7). A horrible example of this can be found in Jezebel and her evil influence on her husband Ahab (1 Kings 21:25). The pattern that’s needed for women to emulate is the one found in Proverbs 31:10-31, the Ideal Woman or “Virtuous Wife” (virtuous meaning “strong in moral qualities”). This ‘homemaker’ was no slacker. She took care of herself so that she was able to take care of what she was entrusted (vs. 17, 22, 30): tending to her husband (as a helpmate the way God originally designed) (vs. 10-12, 23, Gen. 2:18, 20-24); willingly working tirelessly with her hands to manage her household efficiently (vs. 13-21, 24-25, 27-28); and giving to others outside her household (vs. 20). Her outward appearance of strength & honor (vs. 25) emanated from her inner dependence on the Lord, knowing that the strength to accomplish all she did came from Him (vs. 30, Prov. 14:26, 1 Pet. 3:2-4).
As important as it is to take care of ourselves (by getting enough of the right exercise) so that we’ll be up to the physical tasks that we’re entrusted with in this life, it’s the spiritual life of the inner man/woman that’s most vital (1 Tim. 4:8). The apostle Paul prayed that the Ephesian believers would be strengthened in this area (Eph. 3:16). Thankfully we’re not left to live the Christian life in our own strength, just as salvation is not through our own efforts; rather a gift from God (Eph. 2:8-10). Our duty then is to reckon our flesh (the old sinful nature) as dead—much like a baseball that’s ‘out of play’ and instead alive unto God, through Christ. Only then can God’s resurrection power operate mightily through us to fulfil the good works He’s prepared in advance for us to walk in (Rom.6:6-11, Eph. 2:10). Daily feeding upon God’s Word continually along with diligently rightly dividing it, will renew our mind with His truth which will enable us to stand against the wiles of the devil and not get entangled with the affairs of this life (Rom. 12:2, 2 Tim. 2:15, 4, Eph. 6:10-11).
God’s ways are contrary to the world’s ways. It’s the humble who are lifted up (not the prideful) and the weak who are given strength (not the powerful) (1 Cor. 25, 27-31, James 4:6-7, 10, 1 Pet. 5:5-9, Phil. 2:5-11). It’s through the weak, earthen vessel that places their faith in God (not in self or man) where God’s mighty power is best displayed (2 Cor. 4:7). Those listed as faithful and commended in the book of Hebrews “out of weakness were made strong” (Heb. 11:30-34). Unique to the Christian life is a risen Savior Who can sympathize with our weaknesses, as he too was tempted according to all things, like we are, yet did not sin (Heb. 4:15, Phil. 2:5-11). The apostle Paul had no confidence in his flesh (Phil. 3:4). He knew that the Lord’s strength was made perfect only in weakness & that God’s grace was sufficient for him (2 Cor. 12:9). Paul was able to fight a good fight, finish the course God had entrusted him with, and keep his faith due to the strength he received through Christ (2 Tim. 4:7, Phil. 4:13, 2 Tim. 4:17). We can as well when we’re mindful of putting off the old nature, renewing the spirit of our mind, and putting on the new nature that’s equipped with the armor and strength of God (Eph. 4:22-24, 6:10-17).
So outsource your strength from One Who is Almighty and be strong in the power of His might (Ps. 24:10, Isa. 40:26, Eph. 6:10).