Experiencing Happiness in Christ, Even Through Depression and Sorrow

Experiencing Happiness in Christ,
Even Through Depression and Sorrow

By Randy Alcorn

The following is a recent interview I did on the topic of happiness. I appreciated being able to address how someone who is depressed can still move toward experiencing a deep happiness and joy in Christ, which is a question I’ve been asked about frequently since my book was released.

Question:  When you look at happiness, is there a distinction between joy and happiness?

Randy: Interestingly, this has been taught as if it were fact for many years, and there have been many sermons that say joy and happiness are two different things. But we get them both wrong, because people end up saying things like “Joy is not an emotion” and “Joy is not really based on anything; it‘s some transcendental, vague sort of thing. But don‘t seek happiness, because that‘s from the world, and involves sin.”

Well, a lot of people do seek happiness in sin, just like they seek joy in sin. But God is the true source of happiness, delight, and joy. In my study for Happiness, I went back to the Hebrew and Greek words and saw how there are many of them that are translated in various versions as “joy,” “gladness,” “merriment,” “happiness,” “delight,” “pleasure.” These words all have overlapping meanings. Ninety percent of a Hebrew word that‘s translated “joy” overlaps with one that‘s translated “gladness” or “happiness.” (I’m including here a diagram from Happiness, illustrating this.)

There’s been a false and negative distinction that‘s been made between joy and happiness. Unfortunately, the message we send to those both inside and outside the church is, “Seeking happiness is superficial and shallow. Go out and get it in the world, but you won’t find happiness in God.” But all people seek happiness, and because they do, we’re basically telling them, “Stop seeking what God Himself wired you to seek.” What we should be saying is, “Seek your happiness in the right place—in God Himself.”

Read the rest here.


Shared by permission of Randy Alcorn, Eternal Perspective Ministries, 39085 Pioneer Blvd., Suite 206, Sandy, OR 97055, 503-668-5200, www.epm.org

What Does It Really Mean to Be Blessed?

This is an excellent post by Sarah Walton from Set Apart.

What Does It Really Mean
to Be Blessed?

I often hear statements such as, “I am so blessed to have three healthy children!” or “I received the promotion that I’ve been waiting for…I feel so blessed!” or “We just bought the home of our dreams. We are incredibly blessed!” or “We are blessed to live in a country of such comfort, freedom, and opportunity, aren’t we?”

But what happens when you don’t feel so “blessed” in your current circumstances? For example, all of my children have Lyme Disease and one of them has several disorders that have often left us devastated, broken, and uncertain about the future. Are we no longer considered blessed?

My husband lost half of his salary, forcing us to lose our home and all we had worked for. A year later, he lost his job altogether when his position was eliminated, leaving us with the burden of paying for 5 people’s Lyme treatments with no income. Are we no longer considered blessed?

I have battled multiple health issues for most of my life and finally discovered I have been ravaged by Lyme Disease. Did I just happen to draw the short stick and miss out on the blessings that so many others seem to have been given?

Why do we most often associate being blessed with positive circumstances, wealth, comfort, and the absence of problems? I believe it’s because many of us have a very short term and shallow view of what it means to be blessed.

This begs the question – what does it mean to be blessed?

Read the rest here.

The Gift of Illness

This excellent article about a difficult subject is from the True Woman Blog at Revive Our Hearts.

The Gift of Illness

 

I’m not in a wheelchair. I’m not on chemo. I’ve ended up in the hospital only two times, for brief outpatient visits. To see me, you’d assume I’m the picture of perfect health. But underneath this strong exterior lies deep weakness.

I’ve been given the gift of chronic illness. And while I would love to reject such a gift, it has been my invitation into a thousand moments of grace—to feel where I was once numb, see where I was once blind, hear where I was once deaf. It’s been my merciful undoing and my gracious remaking.

You see, in my own strength, pain-free and healthy, I am Pride and Self-sufficiency and The Greatest People Pleaser. But here, in the throes of weakness, I am forced into postures of humility and dependency upon God. This brokenness has surfaced every cranky, weary, impatient, mean, insecure, fearful, shortsighted aspect of my character. So I cry out to Him.

And I find Him.

Read the rest here.

Mourning Yet Praising

Today’s post is taken from one of Today in the Word’s devotionals by Moody Bible Institute. I think this pairs well with my Prayer When Struggling With Depression post. 

Is it really possible to be depressed or in mourning and still be praising God? This might sound like a paradox but it is indeed possible. We can mourn or be depressed about a situation and yet praise God because of who He is and how He is always with us. If we have trusted Him in the past we can trust Him again and again because we know that He will see us through this particular storm. And because He has been faithful to us before, we can count on that faithfulness every single day.

Beloved, please read on. I believe you will be blessed by this as much as I am.

Mourning yet Praising

StreamWaterfall-www.todayintheword.org

Read Psalm 42 

My soul is downcast within me; therefore I will remember you. 
—Psalm 42:6 

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Ten years ago, Chuck and Lynette’s daughter Joy died of complications from epilepsy. She was 28 years old. Joy was a vibrant Christian who had lived up to her name—everyone who knew her testified to her sweet spirit. “I miss her so much every day,” Lynette said. “We used to sing together in church, and I have so many special memories of singing and laughing together. When I sing those songs today, sometimes I cry instead of laugh, but I know that one day we’ll be reunited at the feet of Jesus.”

Lynette’s statement beautifully captures the paradoxical tension within biblical lament. We can feel loss and hope at the same time. We can sing hymns of praise even while we weep and mourn.Our reading for today, Psalm 42, concludes our focus this month on lament. Unlike some of the other lament psalms, this one does not move in a straight line from lament over circumstances to trust in God’s character. Throughout the psalm, the poet describes how desperation and faith wrestle with one another.

In the first four verses, the psalmist articulates his loneliness, torment, grief, and longing. The opening image of the deer panting for water vividly conveys the psalmist’s desperate yearning. Verses 5 and 6 serve as both a summary of the psalm and a hinge between its two sections. The psalmist indicates that he is both downcast and trusting God. He has hope that the time for praise will come.

But the psalm doesn’t end there. Expressions of trust in God don’t end the experience of suffering and sorrow. The psalmist experiences God’s love (v. 8) and also feels abandoned by God (v. 9). The psalmist persists in biblical lament—he is downcast and disturbed, but he also trusts in God and looks forward to praise (v. 11).

Apply the Word

Biblical lament defies our cultural expectations to process grief in certain ways or to just get on with things. You don’t have to feel better before you praise God. Coming to Him with your desperation and suffering is itself an act of trust. Make verse 11 your own personal prayer and statement of faith that you will one day praise God at the feet of Jesus.

http://www.todayintheword.org/titw_devotion.aspx?id=142179

..

When I’m struggling with depression . . .

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Beloved, are your energy and spirit dragging? It happens to all of us at times, making it difficult to think clearly or feel any interest in daily life. Here’s a devotional I wrote awhile back that was published in an anthology titled Anytime Prayers for Everyday PeopleI hope and pray it speaks to your heart.

This particular devotional was in the section titled “Prayers of Supplication.” 

When I’m struggling with depression . . .

Come quickly, LORD, and answer me, for my depression deepens.
Don’t turn away from me, or I will die.
Let me hear of your unfailing love to me in the morning,
for I am trusting you.
Show me where to walk, for I have come to you in prayer.
—Psalm 143:7-8 NLT
…..

My soul melts from heaviness;
strengthen me according to Your word.
—Psalm 119:28 NKJV
…..

God, Who comforts and encourages and refreshes and cheers
the depressed and the sinking,
comforted and encouraged and refreshed and cheered us.
—2 Corinthians 7:6 AMP
…..

When doubts filled my mind,
your comfort gave me renewed hope and cheer.
 
—Psalm 94:19 NLT

…..

. . . I will pray.

Father God,

There is so much in my life today that makes me want to give up. I have no energy to do even the basic things such as getting dressed or taking a shower. Nothing seems right. I despise my job. Food no longer appeals to me. My family and friends want to help me, but the thought of being with anyone is so exhausting.

I just want to be left alone. Why must I feel this way? How could I wake up one day with such despair in my heart? It’s not that I haven’t struggled to shake off this gloomy cloud. I truly have, but nothing has helped. And then I remember how You died on that cross for me and how alone and abandoned You must have felt.

Thank You for showering me with Your life-giving comfort and the reassurance of knowing that You truly understand my suffering. Lord, I turn to You now in hope and faith because even if everyone else in my life gives up on me, I know You’ll hold tight to me with a love that won’t let go.

Thank You for always being my Anchor.

Amen.

When you come to the bottom, you find God. —Nevill Talbot


[From Anytime Prayers for Everyday People. Copyright © 2006 Bordon-Winters LLC]

Crushed but not Broken

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Crushed but not Broken

By Patricia Knight

Crowds of people pose unique and sometimes bizarre dynamics. A peaceful gathering meets to discuss, to listen, or to resolve issues. A crowd often degenerates into a mob by assembling to complain or to demonstrate.  Over-zealous behavior at rallies may lead to violence and injury. Crowds at sports arenas or long lines at retail stores may initiate pushing and shoving.

Crushing frequently occurs due to the compactness of a group, heightened by difficulty of individual movement. Some people may be physically propelled by the energy and intent of a multitude. Anyone attempting to exit the gathering could be trapped from within and seriously injured.

Jesus was the unlikely victim of crowd manipulation. “As Jesus was on his way, the crowds almost crushed him” (Luke 8:42b). Some of those gathered around Jesus were thirsty for knowledge or in need of healing; others yearned to witness Jesus’ miracles.  In the midst of the mass where Jesus was pushed and jostled, He possessed the compassion to focus on one individual, patiently discerning that person’s need, and providing the specific attention required.

When Jesus detected a tug on His robe, He demanded, “Who touched me?”  His disciple, Peter, informed his Master of the futility of locating one individual within a multitude of people.  Peter argued,  “‘The people are crowding and pressing against you’” (Luke 8:45). Not satisfied with Peter’s complacent attitude, Jesus persisted. He identified the person’s touch as light but deliberate. Someone had a motive of healing in mind! Dr. Luke writes that the moment the woman with a twelve-year history of a hemorrhagic disease touched Jesus’ robe, her bleeding ceased immediately (Luke 8:44).

http://www.freebibleimages.org/illustrations/jairus-daughter/

Jesus was on His way to heal another person, but suddenly He stopped, diverting His attention to the person in the crowd who tugged at His garment, transferring healing power from his body to hers. Jesus wouldn’t allow the woman to slink away from the crowd without commending her faith and assuring her of the permanence of her healing.  She learned that memorable day, “The Lord searches every heart and understands every motive behind the thoughts. If you seek him, he will be found by you” (1 Chronicles 28:9).

Jesus’ reaction to a gentle outreach on His clothing or on His heart always initiates a tender, loving response. What prevents us from calling on Him for each one of our needs, whether minor or major? “Then you will call and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help and he will say, ’Here am I’” (Isaiah 58:9).

When we are squeezed by unfamiliar circumstances, we may regress into anxiety or panic. We feel so crowded, we find it hard to breathe deeply or to move in the right direction. Every day we are bombarded with challenges to our faith. Calamities occur that threaten our ability to function: financial devastation, serious health issues, frayed relationships, loss of employment. We feel crushed by the enormity of the situation. We doubt recovery. We grieve losses. We are discouraged and distressed. Where do we find solace?

Frequently, Jesus escaped His followers, favoring a place of solitude and prayer. He sought spiritual enrichment:  re-connecting with His Father to fill His heart with heavenly goals and His mind with sovereign wisdom. By seeking His Father’s will at all times, Jesus renewed His strength and clarity of mission. We aren’t aware of the specific content of Jesus’ prayers, but we have evidence of the result:  refreshment, renewal, and rejoicing. For the Son of God, it was an opportunity to evaluate His priorities and to problem-solve; to worship and to glorify the Father. Jesus sought seclusion in prayer, the example He taught us to follow.

Our Savior understands our responses of anger, sadness, and confusion because He experienced similar emotions as an incarnated man on earth. Jesus was the subject of disbelief by His own siblings. He was humiliated, disrespected, criticized, and falsely attacked by opponents. Church leaders detested Him and sought His annihilation. What was His response?  “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed” (Mark 1:45). Jesus possessed high energy levels to accomplish a demanding ministry by spending quality time in secluded, secret prayer with His heavenly Father.

God’s children aren’t exempt from troubles. However, God assures us that He will comfort, protect, and provide for those who cry out to Him for deliverance. Our Lord is faithful, the unfailing deliverer of the righteous, who also holds the wicked accountable for their hostility aimed at God’s followers. Jesus was crushed by crowds, but they were unable to adversely affect His ability to respond to individuals among  throngs of followers. Jesus hasn’t changed. He still listens intently to our prayers and intercedes with victory for those who believe.

During those experiences when we feel crushed or broken, remember, “God is close to the brokenhearted and saves those crushed in spirit. A righteous man may have many troubles but the Lord delivers him from them all” (Psalm 34: 18-19).

Call on Jesus, lavishing Him with praise and gratitude. Call on Him to communicate and maintain a consistent bond of fellowship. Jesus wants to supply you with the antidote of spiritual joy of heart and peace of mind. To acknowledge that our heavenly Father is within easy access provides tremendous comfort. We are invited to confide in Him anytime, anywhere. “How gracious he {God} will be when you cry for help! As soon as he hears, he will answer you” (Isaiah 30:19).

We may be crowded by an energetic group of people, as Jesus was, or we could be crushed by circumstances beyond our control. Either has the potential to threaten our strength or security, but Jesus offers the solution. Rejoice, for He has the desire and the ability to rescue us from all adversity. We are motivated to worship our Lord in the splendor of His majesty, glorifying His name at every opportunity. Father and Son deserve our personal best, for they have sacrificed their ultimate for each of us!

Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise” (Psalm 48:1).

The Power of #Weakness

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The Power of Weakness

By Brian Biggers

And He said to me,
“My grace is sufficient for you,
for My strength is made perfect in weakness.”
—2 Corinthians 12:9

This is one of the greatest mysteries in the Kingdom; that God will never allow His power to rest on human strength or ability, only on human weakness.  It goes completely contrary to rational thinking.

All our lives we’ve been taught ‘do your best and God will do the rest’ or ‘God helps those who help themselves’.  The reality of Scripture is that He waits until I’m completely hopeless before He steps in and does for me what I can’t do.  When in lifeguard training we were taught that when someone was drowning we were to swim to where they were but not to attempt to help them as long as they were still struggling.  If you did they would drown both of you.  Wait until they had no more energy and were going under, then you can reach in and save them.  I don’t need Him to help “me” do anything, since “apart from ME you can do nothing”.  A life that will experience the power and presence of God’s Spirit being in me and through me what I could never be begins not with trying to do His will, but by bending my knee in His presence and humbly confessing my total inability to do anything without Him.  This is the place in His Divine mystery that His power will meet me in my weakness and I will find that “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”.