Where’s my joy? (Part 2)
What should I do if I don’t feel joy as a Christian?
I asked my housemate this question last week after I’d been thinking about joy as the right response to the gospel. Straight away she said “Well, there could be all SORTS of reasons why someone doesn’t have joy.” Very wise. And she’s right, of course.
So, if we find that we’re not feeling much joy, it would be wise to spend some time prayerfully considering the reason why. Here are a few possibilities, although this list is by no means exhaustive.
1.Have I forgotten to give thanks? I so often forget to give thanks. And giving thanks to the giver of all good gifts, our Heavenly Father, is always a good start in the pursuit of joy. A Christian can lose everything this world has to offer, and still be able to say ‘thank you’ to God the Father, not least for the relationship they have with him through Jesus.
2.Is there serious sin in my life that I’m not repenting of? Listen to King David describe the experience of unconfessed sin:
For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away
through my groaning all day long.
For day and night your hand was heavy upon me;
my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer. (Psalm 32:3-4)
Our relationship with God doesn’t depend on our good behaviour or performance. However it is possible that persistent, unconfessed sin can weigh us down and rob us of the joy of walking with God as our Father.
3.Am I actually feeling sad about something that it’s okay to be sad about? This world is broken and sometimes (often) things can happen that are really sad. A genuinely joyful Christian can still experience sad emotions like grief and despair. Jesus himself wept when confronted with the grief of his close friends Mary and Martha. It can be those times of great sadness that drive us towards our relationship with God and grow in us a deep, steady joy.
4.Am I seeking joy in my circumstances? This is the other side to the coin of question 3. Seeking joy in our circumstances, as opposed to our relationship with God, can leave us heading for trouble. When circumstances change, or don’t meet our expectations, we’re left crushed or in despair. Putting our hope in something more sure, in the Lord Jesus, means that we can find joy in the midst of our circumstances, whatever they are.
5.Am I serving for the wrong reasons? If serving feels like a burden its time to stop and ask why. Serving as a Christian is a privilege – we get to join in with the work that the Father is doing through his Son, to bring a redeemed people to himself! And we get to do that because Jesus has first served us, by dying in our place, to bring us into relationship with God. If we serve to try and earn that relationship then our service becomes a weight on our shoulders that we were never meant to bear.