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

Thankful for God’s Generosity

thankful-for-gods-generosity-amp

It’s been awhile since I shared one of my devotionals that were published in an anthology titled Anytime Prayers for Everyday PeopleSince Thanksgiving is this week, I think this one is particularly appropriate. It is included in the section titled Prayers of Praise and Thanksgiving.

I have so much to be JOYFUL and THANKFUL for. Each day God provides me with exactly enough of everything I need. This year is special to me because He is using a new-to-me medication to keep my migraines away. Since mid-August, I have not had one migraine, and that in itself is cause for much celebration and thanksgiving. 

Beloved, what blessings from God are you especially thankful for today?

When I want to thank God
for His generosity . . .

To him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask
or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us,
to him be glory in the church.
—Ephesians 3:20-21

Generous to a fault,
you [God] lavish your favor on all creatures.
—Psalm 145:16 MSG

All sunshine and sovereign is GOD,
generous in gifts and glory.
He doesn’t scrimp with his traveling companions.
—Psalm 84:11 MSG

Splendor and beauty mark his craft;
His generosity never gives out.
His miracles are his memorial.
 
—Psalm 111:3-4 MSG

. . . I will pray.

Bountiful God,

How can I look at my life and not be thankful for everything You have given me? I’m not referring to material possessions, although I am grateful for all those blessings. I’m thinking of the magnificent ways You help me get through each day.

When I need patience, I reach out to You—and You’re there. When I need courage—I reach out and You’re there. When I need hope, joy, faith—You’re there. You’re always there with all I need to face each day with dignity.

Some people would say that You are generous to a fault! I know You don’t have any faults, Lord, but it’s partly true. You give me so much more than I could ever even imagine, far more than I could ever ask for.

Thank You, Lord, for opening Your generous arms and bestowing on me so many blessings. Thanks for meeting my every need. Show me ways to be generous with others in return. I want to be like You in every way, but especially in this way—I want to be called “generous to a fault” in honor of my heavenly Father.

Amen.

Accustom yourself to the wonderful thought
that God loves you with a tenderness, a generosity,
and an intimacy that surpasses all your dreams.
—Abbe Henri de Tourville


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

AnytimePrayersForEverydayPeople

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 

 Psalm42sm--AMP

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

..

The Marriage Triangle: Marriage is Like a Garden #LoveWins

Please visit TRC to read more of the great articles in this issue!

marriage-triangle-logo-600-amp

The Marriage Triangle:
Marriage is Like a Garden

by Anna Popescu

The first marriage took place in Eden, a glorious and beautiful Garden, that was part of God’s creation. God created Adam and placed him in Eden to care for all the trees, plants and flowers. He saw that it wasn’t good for Adam to be alone, so He created all the animals and birds to be his companions, and told Adam to choose a name for each one. But Adam still didn’t have a suitable helper for him.

21 And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall on Adam, and he slept;
and He took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh in its place.

22 Then the rib which the Lord God had taken from man He made into a woman,
and He brought her to the man.

23 And Adam said:
“This is now bone of my bones
And flesh of my flesh;
she shall be called Woman,
because she was taken out of Man.”

24 Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother
and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.

25 And they were both naked,
the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.

Genesis 2:21-25

Initially life was wonderful for Adam and his helper. “And Adam called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all living” (Genesis 3:20). The Garden of Eden had everything they could ever need to live an abundant life together.

This is when things get out of hand as the cunning serpent enters the picture. He questions Adam and Eve about the garden, challenging God’s command that they can eat the fruit of every tree except for the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. God had told Adam that if he did eat the fruit from that tree, he would die.

Knowing this, the devious serpent engages Eve (not Adam) in a conversation:

Serpent: 1 “Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?”

Eve: 2 “We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; 3 but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.’” [Note that God did not tell Adam he could not touch the fruit of that tree!]

Serpent: 4 “You will not surely die. 5 For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

Well, you can imagine how excited Eve was as she heard the serpent’s sly words. Of course, God had not really meant that she and Adam could not eat such luscious fruit!

6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food,
that it was pleasant to the eyes,
and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate.
She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate. 

Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked;
and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings.

And they heard the sound of the Lord God
walking in the garden in the cool of the day,
and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence
of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.

Genesis 3:1-8

And that was how sin entered the world. Eve was deceived by the serpent; Adam went along with Eve’s decision. Adam, as God’s first human creation, should have taken the lead to make sure that they obeyed God’s command. Eve was created to be Adam’s helper (ideal partner 1). She should have consulted Adam before making the big decision herself.

God then made three declarations (Genesis 3:15-17):

  • He told the serpent that he was forever cursed to be the lowliest of all creatures and would always have to crawl on his belly.
  • He told Eve that she would give birth with sorrow and great pain, and that she would always be under Adam’s authority.
  • As for Adam, God said that because he listened to Eve about the fruit of the forbidden tree and ate it with her, he would always labor with much difficulty to reap the harvest.

Through this series of events in the Garden of Eden, difficulties entered our lives and our marriages, and that brings me to this question:

How well do you look after your marriage garden?

Husbands and wives, we need to make sure we tend to our marriages as carefully as gardeners watch over their gardens so that weeds don’t have a chance to take over. What weeds am I talking about?

Our marriages will not always be perfect, but we should strive for peace and understanding. Sometimes it is the seemingly little things that begin to irritate us. If we give in to our frustrated emotions, the smaller weeds of discontent begin to take root. That’s when we need to “take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5). That definitely includes negative thoughts. In other words, we need to pull those newly budding weeds of dissatisfaction before they grow deeper roots.

When we turn our attention and negative thoughts from ourselves
and focus instead on Jesus,
it is easier to see the positive aspects of our spouse.

There can be many weeds in our marriage garden if we allow ourselves to dwell on the negatives. All of us have irritating behaviors. How we choose to react to those annoyances in our spouses will make the difference between a marriage of two people merely existing in the same house to a married couple who share a home by living and serving each other in the love of Christ.

marriage-garden-schacht_quote

Marriages, like a garden, take time to grow.
But the harvest is rich unto those
who patiently and tenderly care for the ground.
─Darlene Schacht


1  How was the woman a helper suitable for the man (Genesis 2:18)?

When I’m struggling with depression . . .

ps119-28-amp

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]

Purposes of Christ in Suffering

phil1-21-amp

Purposes of Christ in Suffering

By Dr. Joel R. Beeks

Christ intends to use suffering in the lives of His people to sanctify them and to prepare them for eternal glory.  Recognize how sanctified affliction is used to glorify God.  First of all, sanctified affliction humbles you (Deut. 8:2), teaches you what sin is (Zech. 12:10), and causes you to seek God (Hosea 5:15). Affliction vacuums away the fuel that feeds your pride.

Secondly, sanctified affliction serves to keep you in Christ’s communion, closely by His side, to conform you to Him, making you partakers of His suffering and image, righteousness and holiness (Heb. 12:10-11).

Thirdly, sanctified affliction serves to wean you from the world and to cause you to work by faith.  Perhaps affliction bites you so deeply because you are too little at home with the Word and ways of God and too much at home with the world.  In prosperity you often talk of living by other-worldly faith, but in adversity you live your talk.  Discover the truth of Robert Leighton’s words, ‘Affliction is the diamond dust that heaven polishes its jewels with.’

Recognize also that the end of all of His affliction, and ours, is eternal glory.  Think more of your coming crown and your eternal communion with God’s Triune saints and angles. ‘He that rides to be crowned, ‘John Trapp wrote, ‘will not think much of a rainy day.’

Consider Christ: His afflictions, power, presence, perseverance, prayers, goals, and end. Seek grace to live Christianly today through and in your afflictions and you shall soon discover with the apostle, ‘For me to live is Christ and to die is gain’ (Phil. 1:21).