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

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After the Election

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I purposely have not written anything about either Presidential candidate. That’s not what this blog is about. Plus I couldn’t in good conscience fully endorse either of the candidates. When I woke up this morning and read that Donald Trump had won the election, several thoughts were swirling through my mind. I feel the need to write about them today.

My prayers to God during this entire campaign were that He would not forsake our nation. He does have every right to do so because the United States of America, which was founded on Christian principles and beliefs, has strayed very far away from those roots. But still I prayed for Him to give us another chance, and I know many others were praying for the same thing.

God is still in control. He is the one who puts people in positions of authority, including our government leaders. Romans 13:1-2 says:

Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves.

This is what has given me peace about this election—no matter what the outcome. God is and will always be the great I AM, and His plan is always perfect. As my sweet hubby said the other night when we were talking about this, God’s will be done!

Let me leave you with these wise and truthful words that a close friend sent to me this morning:

After the election is over, we can still guarantee these results:


1.  God will still be on His throne.
2.  Jesus will still be King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
3.  The Bible will still have every answer to every problem.
4.  The tomb will still be empty.
5.  Jesus will still be the only way to heaven.
6.  Prayer will still work; it will still make a difference,
…..and God will still answer prayer.
7.  The cross—not the government—will still be our salvation.
8.  There will still be room at the cross.
9.  Jesus will still save anyone who places
…..their faith and trust in Him.
10. God will still be with us always—
…..He will never leave us nor forsake us.

Thank You, Lord, for these truths!
 
And thank you, Kara, for sharing these truths with me and for allowing me to share them with my readers!

Wholehearted #Faith


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By Patricia Knight

When Scripture refers to the heart, it does not allude to the muscular pump located in our left chest. Heart and soul were commonly interchanged in Greek literature. The soul is identified as our invisible psyche where Jesus abides. The heart/soul symbolizes our intellectual, moral, and emotional control central. It contains personality, shelters memory and love, the longing for God, and is the only part of a believer transported to heaven immediately following physical death.

In modern times our hearts are described as the epicenter of our emotions and worship. It is a wellspring of life in which wickedness must not be allowed to take root. Jesus knows the thoughts and motives of our hearts at all times, discerning whether we are wholeheartedly devoted to him alone, hard-hearted unbelievers, or indifferent to His love and sacrifice. “For the Lord searches every heart and understands every motive behind the thoughts” (1 Chronicles 28:9).

God is involved in the heart affairs of our lives. He is far more interested in our souls, the inner characteristics of a follower of Christ, than with our outward features.

The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearances, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).

“Amaziah was 25 years old when he became king. He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, but not wholeheartedly” (2 Chronicles 25:1, 2a). Amaziah typically manifested obedience toward the Lord, but after conquering a pagan country, he brought their gods home. “He set them up as his own gods, bowed down to them, and burned sacrifices to them. The anger of the Lord burned against Amaziah” (2 Chronicles 25:14-15).

Amaziah began his 29 year reign as king with zeal and determination to uphold God’s laws. What caused Amaziah’s downfall? At one time he apparently served the Lord with his whole heart. Though we have few details of King Amaziah’s  career, evidently he suffered gradual loss of commitment and devotion to his Lord and to his people. Selfishness and greed replaced wholehearted devotion. He no longer possessed intense passion for leading a nation with God as his priority and guide.

To serve God wholeheartedly is to express in thought or action, in the most exuberant but sincere way, with every part of one’s being, a dynamic commitment to walk with our Lord. Jesus commanded, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and muscle and intelligence—and that you  love your neighbor as well as you do yourself’” (Luke 10:27, The Msg.).

What do our individual lives disclose about our heart focus? Do we display the fervent desire to serve God? Do we possess the eagerness and energy that should flood our hearts when we pray? Exhilarating joy bursts into wholehearted service when we are committed wholly to our Lord. Jesus gave His life as the ultimate gift to redeem our sins and to secure for us eternal life. As our response, Jesus expects a wholehearted relationship of absolute devotion, intense love, and unmitigated obedience. Jesus then extends to us dynamic power to follow his commandments.

Caleb was one of twelve Israeli men sent into the Promised Land for a fact-finding mission. Upon their return, ten of the spies claimed exaggerated details, intending to evoke fear among the masses. Caleb and Joshua presented realistic, encouraging information, asking the people to depend upon God’s power to lead them into triumphant victory in the new land. “God said, ‘Because my servant Caleb has a different spirit and follows me wholeheartedly, I will bring him into the land he went to’” (Numbers 14:24).

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Many parents instruct their children from an early age, “Do a job well or don’t do it at all.”  If secular teaching devalues half-hearted efforts, our love and service for our Lord must attain a much higher standard. “Whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him (Colossians 3:17).

The adverse of wholeheartedness toward God was best exemplified by the Pharaoh of Egypt at the time Moses was negotiating release of the nation of Israel from slavery. God created ten major, horrific plagues affecting every aspect of the Egyptian’s lives. With each increasingly ugly plague, Pharaoh weakened his resolve to let God’s people go, until he begged Moses to appeal to God to discontinue the most current plague. Exhibiting patience and mercy, God granted Pharaoh’s request. But, when Pharaoh witnessed evidence of relief from the plagues, he sunk into his old behavior with an unyielding hard heart, ultimately refusing to permit the Israelites to travel. Pharaoh’s hardened heart revealed a consistently sinful life of unbelief, dispassion, and bitterness.

Hardheartedness implies refusal to take God and His Word seriously. Pharaoh’s heart was hardened by his own deceit. Later, God hardened Pharaoh’s heart permanently to accomplish His purpose of releasing His children from slavery. If it had been available in Pharaoh’s lifetime, his heart/soul ECG would have printed a straight line of apathy and death.

Suppose your name and life accomplishments were included in Scripture, exposed for all generations to read.  Would God declare you as wholeheartedly devoted to Him? Or, would He have to clarify, as He did for King Amaziah, that you did right in God’s eyes, but not wholeheartedly? There are times in life when we display eager enthusiasm, animated dedication, or intense thirst. We love a spouse wholeheartedly; we often pursue a hobby with energy and commitment; we may thirst after knowledge. Most of us would accept a financial windfall with wholehearted ecstasy.

Why is a wholehearted lifestyle often applied to our physical endeavors, but ignored in our spiritual relationship to our Savior? Jesus desires that we open our heart/soul as His residence, to proclaim complete trust and zeal toward Him. Our relationship then becomes a wholehearted witness to the world that we are passionate and effervescent about serving our Savior. Let us perfect our wholehearted health and outreach, glorifying our Lord as we serve Him and others.

“So if you’re serious about living this new resurrection life with Christ, act like it. Pursue the things over which Christ presides. Don’t shuffle along, eyes to the ground, absorbed with the things right in front of you. Look up, and be alert to what is going on around Christ—that’s where the action is. See things from his perspective” (Colossians 3:1-2,The Msg.).

Faith is a wholehearted affair!

At Christ’s Table

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At Christ’s Table

Adapted from Till He Come by Charles Spurgeon

12 Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you,
as though some strange thing happened to you;  

13 but REJOICE to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings,
that when His glory is revealed,
you may also be glad with exceeding JOY. 

14 If you are reproached for the name of Christ,
blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.
On their part He is blasphemed, but on your part He is glorified. 

15 But let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer,
or as a busybody in other people’s matters. 

16 Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian,
let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter,

17 For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God;
and if it begins with us first,
what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God? 

18 Now
“If the righteous one is scarcely saved,
Where will the ungodly and the sinner appear?”

19 Therefore let those who suffer according to the will of God
commit their souls to Him in doing good,
as to a faithful Creator.

—1 Peter 4:12-19

At the Last Supper, Christ brought all His disciples as table-companions, a prophecy that applies to all of His people forever. In heaven, there cannot be less of a privilege than on earth. It cannot be that believers will be degraded from what they have been below. The disciples were companions at Christ’s table here below, and they will still be table-companions in heaven above. Blessed is he that will eat bread in the kingdom of God. “Many will come from east and west and recline at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven,” and the Lord Jesus will be at the head of the table (Matt. 8:11).

What will His table of JOY be like? What will be His celebration when His reward is seated around Him and His triumph is all achieved? Whatever it is, you will share in it. For you poor, working woman, what a change to sit among princes and near to your Lord Jesus, with all your hard work and poverty ended forever. And you, sad child of suffering, will not have pain there, and you will be forever with the Lord. The JOY of Christ will be your JOY forever and ever! In the anticipation of the JOY that will be yours, forget your current troubles. Rise above today’s difficulties, and if you cannot REJOICE because of the present, REJOICE for the future that will soon be yours.

Here is the way of salvation: believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved. To believe in Him is to trust Him; it is leaning on Him, resting on Him. Rest your whole weight on Christ in a spiritual sense. You have a load of sin; lean on Him, sin and all. You are unworthy, weak, and perhaps miserable. Cast on Him the weakness, the unworthiness, the misery and all. Take Him to be all in all to you, and when you have trusted Him, you will have become His follower. Go on by humility to be His disciple, by obedience to be His servant, by love to be His friend, and by communion to be His table-companion.

All emphasis is mine