I am sure that we are all familiar with those situations when something bad is taking place and we hit our knees in desperation, crying out to God, and then He answers and the situation is solved and we go back to our happy lives. But what about those situations that linger? God may be working, but the answer is not immediate. How do we feel then? When our loved one takes another bad turn in their illness, when our child comes home only to clean us out for their next fix, when our own pain makes us question all aspects of our lives – how do we feel then? Don’t we have the right to be upset? Angry? Discouraged? Depressed? Our complete lack of control in these circumstances sends our emotions into chaos. Maybe life has dealt us a nasty hand – it would only be natural to harden our hearts and pile on the layers of self pity and cry, “whoa is me!”
That is the natural reaction of our flesh to these situations. But we are not alone – we have God. Does knowing God mean that I am going to feel happy instead? Wouldn’t that seem like I am saying that I am happy that my loved one is sick, or my child is lost into the world of drugs, or that I am in pain (emotional or physical)? Perhaps I am not using the right words here. I don’t know that anyone could feel “happy” in any of these situations. But must we be defeated? It doesn’t make sense that the God who promised us “abundant life” would want these circumstances to leave us wallowing in the mire. What is the answer then? It is found in who we believe God to be. If God is not capable of intervening in your life, and allows the world to evolve without His influence or purpose, then perhaps you are out of luck. But since we know that God is powerful and present and purposeful and passionate about His people, then we have hope. We can trust Him in these situations to bring about His greater purposes. We can experience joy even in the worst of it.
Psalm 33 speaks of the works of God. How He created the world and watches over His people. It reminds us to praise Him. And to trust. Verses 20-22 state, “We wait in hope for the Lord; he is our help and our shield. In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name. May your unfailing love be with us, Lord, even as we put our hope in you.” We hope, we trust and our hearts find joy. Doubt and fear and despair are joy killers. They all come when we take our eyes off of the Lord. But when we place our hope in Him, we have joy – even in the ugliest circumstances.
Joy is not feeling “happy.” Rick Warren defines joy this way: “Joy is the settled assurance that God is in control of all of the details of my life, the quiet confidence that ultimately everything is going to be alright, and the determined choice to praise God in every situation.” Even though we may want to just stop and bury our heads in the sand, we can go on living. We can trust God. We can choose to keep our eyes on the One that is in control. Today I will praise Him for what He has done for me, and what He will do. My story will be about Him and His kindness, not about me.