“There are many who say, ‘Who will show us some good? Lift up the light of your face upon us, Lord!’ You have put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and wine abound. In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety” (Psalm 4:6-8).
We lean into our suffering, other people’s suffering, and are given the opportunity to demonstrate the sort of faith, which says, “I trust God now, especially, when I don’t have anything except Him. He is enough.” Can we say that joyfully, and with peace in our hearts?
Weary of the World
Maybe not every day, though I would like to say “amen!” and mean it. But I have to be reminded of the reality that Jesus is my all-in-all. After all, the news was full of bad, bad stuff. In the midst of this, people cried out, “Where is God? If God is good…?”
People were hurting and they wanted to either yell at God or deny that he exists, but our Father is the only source of real, deep comfort, the one who gives all of this pain some kind of purpose and meaning.
God will ensure there is perfect justice for the barbarity of residential schools and the children whose bodies were found there; for victims of sexual abuse; for hate crimes based on gender, religion, race, or vaccination status. For Uighur camp detainees.
I’m not a victim of these things, admittedly, although I think the world, in general, is weary with bad news. And we all face our own forms of oppression and general suffering. What I want to encourage readers with today is this — if you were able to claim joy for even a few moments in spite of your own personal battle with suffering, then that’s worth celebrating.
I Choose Joy
You made a choice not to be bogged down. You gave Satan a good old raspberry. I choose joy today. I’m going to choose joy tomorrow too. Know why? God is on the throne. I don’t say that lightly. He’s been on the throne through some stuff.
God has not let me down, he never will, and he doesn’t change. Perhaps I’ll sit in that joy for 10 minutes or a few hours, or it’ll be a flash of light, which leaves an impression when I close my eyes, but I choose Him, and He brings joy to my spirit. He makes me “like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail” (Isaiah 58:11).
“Where does my hope come from?” (Psalm 121:1). It comes from God alone, through Jesus. When I enjoy the Lord, I trust that his purpose and direction are good because He is the Lord, he will be glorified, and the result cannot be anything except good (even if I don’t see that for myself).
Turn to him and he will supplant your desires with his own measure of fulfillment, and it always surpasses anything we think to ask for. He lavishes me with more of himself.
There Are Some Who Say
I know it’s hard to believe that God is good right now. I mean, the pandemic, natural disasters, deadly political turmoil: they erupt and explode every time the world seems to calm down a little bit. That’s without all the personal strife like diagnoses, divorce, bankruptcy, and abuse.
But think about the context of Psalm 4. King David, who penned those words, suffered a lot. “Despite what the cynics said or thought, David trusted that the LORD would show him good.”
David Guzik wrote, “When we know that the face of God shines favorably on us, it puts gladness in the heart. Though David was in distress, vexed by ungodly men all around, he could still have gladness in his heart because the LORD put it there.”
Remember David, who was nearly murdered multiple times before sitting on the throne? Monarchy was no picnic either. David’s own son, Absalom, tried to depose him (more threats of death). His first baby with Bathsheba died because he had committed adultery with her and had her husband killed.
Yet, David trusted the Lord. Spurgeon asked rhetorically, “How many of our sleepless hours might be traced to our untrusting and disordered minds.” King David had to keep submitting his plans and desires to God, but he did it (over and over), the Lord accepted his repentance (over and over), and David found joy (over and over).
Even if it was only a grain of sand in a dune of grief and toil, that grain was memorable and important enough to record for posterity. He knew someone else would need to read what he had written. “You have put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and wine abound.”
Joy in Every Circumstance
It’s easy to read the Psalms and forget that they are all about Jesus; so, when James wrote, “Count it all joy, brothers, when you face trials of many kinds” (1:2) he was saying the same thing as David: he “could be happy even in distressing times, because the LORD put gladness in his heart.”
Guzik uses the word “happy,” but “happiness” is a weak word in comparison with joy. Happiness seems circumstantial and we can have happiness with God, but not so with joy, which is a choice. Not only that, but I heard someone say that to “enjoy God” is to yield to him. Happiness doesn’t carry that same weight.
Jesus is better than bread and wine, which make us happy, but we have a relationship with him because we yield to him. He is daily bread and living water. He is our sufficiency, but not mere sufficiency — abundant life! It’s not “well, I guess this will have to do.”
More like “all I wanted was bread and wine, but I got the bakery and the vineyard!” We inherited all of it; were equipped by the Spirit of God through Christ when we submitted our will to his.
Where Does My Joy Come From?
It’s not simple or easy. I won’t lie. This “choosing joy” can be exhausting, a real fight. I have prayed for something and waited and waited and it didn’t come, which is bewildering and scary because I thought my prayers and my hopes lined up with God’s direction.
But God always answers prayers even when he doesn’t give us what we want. God gave me more than I prayed for, something better than I expected.
It is better than my best hope. My joy comes from discovering — again — that the Lord is trustworthy to achieve what he will, in spite of me, for his glory and my good.
His glory first, and my good comes out of that because he is a good and gracious God. There is no picture in which the God of Heaven gives us something we didn’t need or that would ultimately hurt us.
My Father in Heaven is more hurt about hurtful things, angrier about injustice, sadder about sad things, than I am. If the world is hurting, then the cross shows me that he cares about justice. Hell shows me how much this matters to him.
That’s another thing I was reminded of lately: this tender and loving Father will punish evil and has meanwhile paid the price for us to find peace and joy in him.
It’s a trusting joy, suspended between Christ’s resurrection and his return, but with a record like his, we know that — like David — we can enjoy God even in the middle of unpleasant circumstances.
Misfortunes, confusions, tragedies, and disappointments continue; meanwhile, our Father is still omniscient, omnipotent, and loving. He is my joy.
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Candice Lucey is a freelance writer from British Columbia, Canada, where she lives with her family. Find out more about her here.