(Originally written 7/20/06)
Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me [with thy] free spirit. Psa. 51:12
This was going to be a theoretical discussion about joy, but I’m beginning to see that God is going to use this study as a way to test me as well. I’ve already been tested on love. I’ve had to come face to face with what I consider to be love, what I do to show that love, and I come up woefully short of the mark. As I mentioned before, I grew up disconnected from other people, so I didn’t really know what it was like to forge loving bonds until much later in life. And even to this day, I still think that is one of the toughest things I deal with. And, of course, since I really don’t understand love here on earth, it makes it that much harder to understand God’s love, an unconditional love that never asks for anything, and yet gives everything. A love that will always be there, no matter what. When the love I see and feel here on earth is so fleeting, it’s just hard to grasp the concept of self-sacrificing love, agape. So, I’m working on it.
Which brings me to joy. I’m always big on saying I may not always be happy, but I’m always joyful. The joy is from knowing I’m saved, knowing that my future is secure. But, just like David, I’ve let the worries of the world steal my joy. I’ve let trivialities knock me down, forcing me to take my eyes off God. And if I’m not focusing on God, I forget the reason why I do all that I do. I’m reminded of Peter, when he walked on water. As long as he focused on Jesus, he was safe from the storm, but as soon as he concentrated on the storm, he lost faith, was afraid, and fell into the water. The cool thing about it is that Jesus was right there to pull him up, just like He’s there to pull us all up out of the crashing waves.
David wrote Psalm 51 after being confronted by Nathan for the sins he’d committed. There was no question that, although David broke every commandment, he was still saved. But, he was no longer joyful. He’d let the world intrude into his relationship with God. Instead of looking to the heavens toward his Creator, he chose to look down to earth where Bathsheba bathed. I’ve been looking down at the earth for too long. I’ve forgotten that nothing here on earth matters if I’m not focused on Jesus, on my Creator, my Savior, my King.
Joy is not happiness. Happiness depends on current circumstances. Something good happens, you’re happy. Something bad happens, you’re not happy. But being joyful is completely different. 1 Thessalonians 5:16 says “Rejoice evermore.” Always be joyful? How’s that possible? Things go wrong, life takes a nasty turn, how can you be joyful in times like that? That’s where happiness and joy are different. You can be joyful and not be happy. Happiness is the temporary state, joy is the eternal state. Can you be happy and not joyful? Absolutely. But it’s an empty happiness, almost an echo of happiness and not the real thing.
You can lose your joy. David did. Any time you take your eyes off the prize, you lose sight of your goal. My goal is heaven, and eternal unity with the Lord Jesus. I forget that goal in pursuit of earthly goals: a good job, a wife, the next good book or TV show or movie. Those things can make you happy, but they cannot bring you eternal joy like God can.
I’ve been acting a lot like David lately and I realize this. I know I have sinned and fallen far short of where I should be. I’ve let my joy wither while I concentrated on the elusive pursuit of happiness which, while a constitutional right, is not as fulfilling or satisfying as the pursuit of joy. Today, I pray like David did, Lord, restore unto me the joy of my salvation, remind me of the important things, help me to walk the path You have set for me, no matter the price, no matter the consequences. I’m ready to go wherever You need me, whenever You need me there. Restore my heart, and allow me to appreciate Your love for me, how deep and eternal and unchanging it is. Holy Spirit, fill me with joy, fill me with wisdom, guide me today and every day. Jesus, help me to be more like you, help me to keep the old man dead and buried. Amen.