Joy Restored

Last Tuesday morning, as I was walking into work from the seven-story parking structure where I park my car, I noticed a police officer and deputy sheriff conversing on the north-east side of the building with their vehicles strategically parked to block access to a certain area. As I walked by, I caught a glimpse of a yellow tarp on the ground which I later discovered was covering the body of someone who had jumped from the top of the parking structure to their death. This is the second time in a matter of months where someone had chosen to take their own life in this way. I don’t know the circumstances of either of these poor souls, nor if mental illness was a factor, which is beyond the scope of this article. I do know from first-hand experience what despair feels like, the sense that you have no hope of a future, that there is nothing left to live for and nothing will ever get better. But the world only offers a false hope. Society would have you believe that learning to love yourself more is the cure to all life’s ills, but this is nothing more than a lie of the Enemy. Worldly self-love is not the opposite of self-loathing; they are two sides of the same coin made with the same alloy—self!

We are not instructed in Scripture to love ourselves more, it is simply stated that we already do. The pursuit of loving ourselves more only leads to narccissim and ultimately deep dissapointment and sorrow because true lasting joy is absent from our fallen sinful nature. The Apostle Paul described this worldly self-love to his young protege, “You should know this, Timothy, that in the last days there will be very difficult times. For people will love only themselves and their money. They will be boastful and proud, scoffing at God, disobedient to their parents, and ungrateful. They will consider nothing sacred. They will be unloving and unforgiving; they will slander others and have no self-control. They will be cruel and hate what is good. They will betray their friends, be reckless, be puffed up with pride, and love pleasure rather than God. They will act religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly” (2 Timothy 3:1-5). Wow! It certainly sounds like our modern society doesn’t it? This kind of self-love does not bring you peace, hope or joy. Because of our inherent sinful nature, when our focus is on ourselves, our every thought and deed is disordered self-gratification which only leads to sin and death. James, the brother of Jesus wrote, “Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away. These desires give birth to sinful actions. And when sin is allowed to grow, it gives birth to death” (James 1:14-15).

But the Gospel message is the Good News of Jesus the Christ! He is the Messiah, our Savior who rescues us from enslavement to sin and from our despair. He is the true source of hope and joy. Romans 5:1-2 tells us, “Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us. Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory.” This isn’t a promise that life will suddenly be better. No! We who are followers of Christ, experience all kinds of calamity, whether from sources outside ourselves or of our own doing. We experience loss and loneliness, sickness and disease, debt and poverty, sadness and fear. The difference is that we also have Joy in spite of our circumstances because of the Holy Spirit who lives in our hearts, and because our hope is in God’s promise of a future in His presence. “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:17-18).

No matter how far you have strayed from God, He is merciful. No matter how deep your sorrow, He is our hope and our Joy. No matter what circumstances you find yourself in, even if it’s of your own doing, God desires to restore joy in you and it is the pursuit of holiness that makes this possible. Jesus said, “When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow!” (John 15:10-11). When we accept Christ as our Lord and Savior, we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit who empowers us to become holy people. His power makes obedience to God’s commands a real possibility in our lives, and when we are obedient to Christ, joy is restored in our hearts. We have a God who loves us with unimaginable depth. If you find yourself in despair, God is waiting for you to turn to Him so he can restore you.

“Create in me a pure heart, O God, do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me” (Psalm 51:10-12).

If you are experiencing thoughts of suicide or seemingly inescapable deep depression, find a qualified Christian counselor to help you through it, and if you aren’t sure where to find one, start with your local pastor or a trusted Christian friend who will walk along side you and find you help. Our journey back to reconcilliation with God was never meant to be traveled alone. We are instructed to “share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2).

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