Once my friend Scott and I were standing in a long line in a brand-new building supply store in Luxembourg. A grand-opening sale and great publicity worked to perfection and people scurried everywhere like ants on an anthill that someone had just kicked.
We watched the young lady at the front of our interminable line robotically checking everyone out. I’m sure she was a bit overwhelmed with the crowd, but a machine would have displayed more personality.
So I said to my friend Scott, “Do you think we can make her laugh?”
He was pretty sure we could and when we got our turn we teased and laughed with her. Before we left she was a jolly old soul.
Cheerfullness Isn’t Far Away
Which makes me think that joy isn’t far away for most of us. All we have to do is dig away a little sand and cheerfullness bubbles up like a hudden stream in the desert.
Christians have a reputation of being a sour lot and let’s admit it—often it’s true. But why? If anyone has a reason to be glad it’s those who have an inheritance like ours.
We’re even commanded by our joyful God to be joyful. Now I know that when we say that joy is a commandment, that’s often just something else to feel guilty about.
“I’m supposed to be joyful but here I am sad. I’m just not what I ought to be.”
Kind of pitiful aren’t we? But there is an intentional side to joy. We make up our mind to concentrate on God’s blessings in our life, to keep our attention focused on what is going right and not what is going wrong in this world.
If we spend most of our time thinking about Donald and Hillary, depression descends on us as surely as a fat belly follows three cheeseburgers and a chocolate shake.
My favorite football team got pounded this week-end. Misery.
I love the comic strip “Zits.” One strip featured the fifteen-old year old hero lying on the couch, lamenting his lot in life when his father happens by.
“Woe is me!” the youngster moans.
His father says something like, “What have you got to complain about? It’s Summer. You can sleep until noon. No responsibilities. I’ve got to work, pay the mortgage and other bills and take care of my family.”
The son has an epiphany and looks at his dad. “You’re right. Woe is you. Woe is you!”
I can tell you about my problems but you know what? I’m blessed.
Think About It
My sins are forgiven because Jesus went to the Cross in my place. He’s alive and He hears my prayers. He’s promised me eternal life. He said He would never leave me, now or in eternity. He’s for me. He has given me a reason for living. I have a wonderful wife, exceptional kids, grandkids that are even more incredible than yours. Too much to eat, a bed to sleep in, a roof over my head, people who treat me much better than I merit.
If I start with my good list and focus on it, I’m digging sand away and let the desert stream deliver me its life-giving waters.
His Holy Spirit gives us strength to do it. He parades God’s truth and blessings before our eyes if we’ll look. He strengthens our insides.
Listen to how people describe God. To many Christians God sounds like someone who was baptized in pickle juice and lives to make us miserable.
I’m not sure which God you’re talking about. The God I see in the Bible dances and sings for joy because of you and me (Zepaniah 3:17). He fills us with Himself and communicates His joy to us—“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy … (Galatians 5:22)
You know those people that you just like to be around? God is like that. He just makes you feel good when you’re with Him. “In Your presence is fullness of joy;
At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” (Ps. 16:11, NKJV)
“But, what about when we mess up David?”
Yeah. We’re all there at times aren’t we? He shapes us up that’s sure. But, he still loves us and He restores our joy. (Psalms 51:8, 12)
Joy In Tough Times
And all of us have tough times when we just don’t feel like smiling. King David was a joy expert and he sure had times when he mourned and cried, when it felt like God had forgotten him.
“How long O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? … Give light to my eyes or I will sleep in death; my enemy will say, ‘I have overcome him, and my foes will rejoice when I fall.” (Psalm 13:1, 3b, 4).
David gives us the key to digging the sand away from our joy:
“But I will trust in your unfailing love,” (he’s saying to himself over and over, ‘God loves me. He will never stop. He’s for me)
“my heart rejoices in your salvation” (you begin to meditate and think over all the implications of what God has done in your life. Not only has He saved you from your sin but over and over again, He’s come to your aid. And when it didn’t come out like you wanted, He didn’t leave you. He wanted to comfort you and wrap His arms around you.
“I will sing to the Lord.” (“But I sing like a crow,” you protest. That’s all right. Just express your heart to Jesus. If it hurts, tell him so. But, don’t forget the good things He’s put in your life. Don’t ever minimize His blessings.”
“for he has been good to me.”
So, there you are, toiling away like our friend at the cash register at the beginning of this Coffee Stain. And the Lord comes by with a smile for you.
Don’t be a grouch (or a grouchette). Push up the corners of your mouth. Think about your blessings. Start humming a happy song of praise and REJOICE! Joy abounds in His presence.
A marriage based not on self-denial but on self-fulfillment will require a low-or no-maintenance partner who meets your needs while making almost no claims on you. Simply put—today people are asking far too much in the marriage partner. Tim Keller