Genuine, lasting joy comes as a gift from God. It is not of ourselves. Because of this truth, maintaining joy in the Lord requires us to engage in remembering God.
Joy in the Lord is supernatural. It exists beyond all of our circumstances and can be present in all of them. God desires to fill us with his joy. But we can be much like the Israelites described as the Psalmist wrote:
I am the LORD your God, who brought you up out of Egypt.
Open wide your mouth and I will fill it.
“But my people would not listen to me; Israel would not submit to me. So I gave them over to their stubborn hearts to follow their own devices.
Psalm 81:10-12. The New International Version. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011. Print.
The joy that surpasses all understanding is there for our receiving, but it requires us to make a willful decision to submit to God and depend on him to supply what we need.
- When our circumstances are troublesome, it’s hard to do so because we sometimes feel as if God has abandoned us or does not care for us.
- In good times, it can be equally difficult because we can falsely begin to believe that we do not need God and that our happiness is a result of ourselves.
That being the case, if we want to continually dwell in a state with our “mouths wide open” to receive God’s blessing and joy, we have to determine that we will, in both the good and bad times, focus upon God. We begin by actively remembering what we have experienced and know of God.
Reminding Ourselves of what God has Done
There is an old hymn which issues the encouragement to remember our blessings. The song begins with the verse:
When upon life’s billows you are tempest-tossed,
When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.
Count Your Blessings.Johnson Oatman, Jr., pub.1897. Public Domain
It may seem or feel like a ‘goofy’ thing to do when the world is crashing down around you or even when all is going great, but the practice of taking notice of God’s action in our lives is always uplifting.
As I have been dealing with my new experience of living under the diagnosis of a major depressive disorder, I have noticed two things that consistently help elevate me in the low times:
1. Remembering the Personal Things God Has Done in my life.
I have started a journal. Well, it’s more like a running list. On it, I just tally all of the many things God is actively doing in my life. Many of them are small and could appear insignificant, but I know God’s hand are in them. Things like:
- A beautiful, supportive wife
- Green beans
- Waking up
- The sunshine on my shoulders
- Time and ability to go for a mind clearing run
None of those items seem miraculous in and of themselves, well maybe the wife part, but each of them is a gift from God, a gift I have done nothing worthy of deserving. Other things fall into the more fantastic and surprising category, but every one of them is worth remembering and recalling they are all gifts from God.As I stop taking things for granted, my spirits lift, I realize just how blessed I am.Click To Tweet
I encourage you to try this exercise. It may seem foolish at first but keep at it. I can almost promise you; it will change your outlook and experience.
2. Reading About what God Has Done in the Lives of Others
I know many are not avid readers, but a lot of encouragement for our lives can come from reading about how God worked in and through the lives of others. Of course, the Bible is full of such accounts and is the best place to start. But, there are also many biographies about Christians from days gone by who even as they struggled, God did mighty things in their lives.
Corrie Ten Boom’s The Hiding Place is one such account. Alive during the Holocaust, and while not a Jew herself, persecuted as one due to her activity in trying to help them, Corrie’s life was chock full of difficulty. She had every reason to sink to despair. Instead, she found strength in the Lord and His Joy. She lived through it all, and in her life, God did amazing things both for her and those who encountered her.
Understanding the trials and the results of those lives that have gone before us trusting God in all their difficulties, helps us put our own lives into proper perspective. It helps us understand that even during the most difficult points of our life, God is at work and great things come from trusting in Him.
Open Wide Your Mouth
Do you want to open wide your mouth and receive all God has to give? Begin by remembering God and everything he has already done. As you do so, you will begin to experience joy in the Lord.
[This post is part two of a four part series on finding Joy in the Lord. You can find the first posts and links to the remainder as they come available here.]