Mourning into dancing?

Joy slipped away from me this week. Heavy sighs were often heard from me! I became something of a martyr as I continued to do ‘my duty.’ What happened to my joy?  I’m sure that there are a combination of things including brain chemistry, fatigue, and even spiritual opposition that darkened my  skies.  But, I also know that without the joy of the Lord I will not reflect the goodness of God to others in the way He desires.

danceDutiful people can look admirable and godly with all their commitment to responsibility. Let’s remember, however, that the evidence of the Life of God’s Spirit in us includes joy.  Joy is not to be confused with happiness, silliness, or mirth.  It is better than that. It flows out of a sense of God’s provision for us.  A joyless Christian (that was me!) has a spiritual issue with which he must deal. When Jesus taught about His intimate life-giving connection to us, using the metaphor of the vine and branches, He said that from Him we will draw life and “you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow!” (John 15:11, NLT)

Jesus was “a man acquainted with grief, a man of sorrows.” He did weep with those who were broken by disappointment, death, and disease. But, He was never in despair. The work of a pastor brings me into contact with many people who are full of sorrow. Death, divorce, and disappointment bring people to me all the time! I’d be a fool not to recognize that life is full of trouble and sadness.  I would be something less than compassionate if I kept the grief others feel from touching my heart.  And yet it’s not all death and duty!

Jesus earned harsh criticism from the dutiful religious professionals for going out to dinner with people that most thought of as worthless sinners. He attracted people to Him everywhere He went. It is not a stretch of imagination to think that He did so by knowing how to laugh and lift them up. Make whatever you want of this, but the Gospels tell us that Jesus’ first miracle was supplying wine for a wedding! We miss a large part of Who He was if our only picture of the face of Jesus is the tear-stained one He wore on the night of Gethsemane’s agony. We forget that kids loved Him, that crowds were drawn to Him, and that He spent a lot of time with so-called ‘street people.’  He had to be a joyful man, too.

So, how do we live in His joy?

Worship! “You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.” (Psalm 16:11, NIV) If we live life, with our face to the ground, focusing only on the needs, the duties, the pressing responsibilities – we will be overcome with the apparent futility of life. Worship, offering up the sacrifice of praise, lifts our face to Heaven and allows us to regain a view of God’s glorious works. No wonder the Scripture urges us to “Come, let us sing for joy to the LORD; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation. Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song.” (Psalm 95:1-2, NIV)

Serve! The paradox of joy is that you cannot find it in vanity and in and endless pursuit of pleasure. Selfishness cuts us off from God’s approval which is our greatest reason for joy!  Jesus told a story about men who were entrusted with responsibility. Two of the three were diligent and obedient in their service. Note their commendation: “Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful . . . Enter into the joy of your lord.” (Matthew 25:23, NKJV)  Faithful service allows us to enter into God’s joy.

Accept!  Nothing is a greater joy-killer than becoming convinced that happiness lies in being someone else, somewhere else. God is where you are.  Joy cannot be found outside of ourselves. It flows from inside of our heart. Jesus told a thirsty woman what I and you need to hear: “the water I give them takes away thirst altogether. It becomes a perpetual spring within them, giving them eternal life.” (John 4:14, NLT)  Will we pray to be fully alive in our current situation, accepting His grace; or will we remain restless and joyless in our discontent. Those who are His beloved children can turn to Him and find help, strength, and resources. He gives grace for the journey.  Accept it and there will be joy even in the trials of life. Do not confuse happiness, a transitory emotion that is largely based on pleasant circumstances, with genuine joy. Joy is a constant work of God’s Spirit in us, not something we drum up, create, or paste into place.

Is dutiful responsibility draining away your joy?

Here’s a word from the Word, our reminder of joy in the Lord.
“He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and the mire.
He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along.
He has given me a new song to sing, a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see what he has done and be amazed.
They will put their trust in the Lord.

Oh, the joys of those who trust the Lord,
who have no confidence in the proud or in those who worship idols.”
 (Psalm 40:2-4, NLT)

____________
Mourning Into Dancing (listen to Steve Green sing it, click here)

You have turned my mourning into dancing, Lord
Now my feet are filled with your praise
You have clothed my spirit with a robe of joy
You’ve cast my sorrow away

For Your anger last but a moment, Lord
And my tears endure for the night
But Your favor lasts for a lifetime, Lord
My joy returns with the morning light

For . . .
You have turned my mourning into dancing, Lord
Now my feet are filled with your praise
You have clothed my spirit with a robe of joy
You’ve cast my sorrow away

All my foes lose heart when they hear my voice
For I speak in Jesus’ Name
They turn back in fear at the sound of praise
I’ll not keep silent, I must proclaim

That . . .
You have turned my mourning into dancing, Lord
Now my feet are filled with your praise
You have clothed my spirit with a robe of joy
You’ve cast my sorrow away

Words and music by John G. Elliott

Copyright 1989 LCS Songs (a div. of Lorenz Creative Services)/Charlie Monk Music. All rights reserved.

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