Joy Unspeakable

In 2016, Marie Kondo inspired millions to reduce their clutter and increase their happiness, testing the value of things by asking, “Does it spark joy?”

Two years later, a motivational speaker named Alexander Den Heijer said, “You often feel tired, not because you’ve done too much, but because you’ve done too little of what sparks a light in you.” And fifteen years before that, Marcus Buckingham, an author and specialist in strengths, suggested that: “Strengths aren’t activities that you are good at. Strengths are activities that leave you feeling strong.” I can think of a dozen similar quotes. I’m sure you can, too.

But as I read those quotes, I’m reminded of Ecclesiastes 12, where the author says, “Of making many books there is no end, and much study wearies the body… but here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.

You see, the question to ask isn’t, Does it spark joy?, or spark light, or make us feel strong. The question is only this: According to God’s Word, is it right or is it wrong? And to know that, we can’t depend on something as fickle as our emotions. To know that, we have to lean on and submit to God’s Word.

Now, don’t get me wrong. There’s wisdom in understanding our gifts, strengths, weaknesses, and personality. But the promises in Scripture cannot be invoked by our will. And the requirements of God are not subject to our feelings. They depend solely on the authority of His Will and His Word. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. And our responsibility, regardless of how it feels, is to obey His Word and to follow His commands.

It’s worth noting, in a culture that places a higher value on personal happiness than on obedience and responsibility, that submission and sacrifice aren’t signs of weakness – they are signs of security and strength. True strength gives itself away. It doesn’t hoard resources, fearing for its own provision. It doesn’t withhold good until a convenient time. It doesn’t delay obedience until it is free from risk. Hope doesn’t worry about being diminished. Faith trusts in an eternal promise, regardless of the current circumstances. Love absorbs pain and suffers long – not because it is weak, but because it is strong.

And how can it do that? How can WE do that? Two reasons:
One. Because we can trust in the promises of a Good Father who is also our Provider, Healer, Helper, Savior, Hope, and Strength. He is in authority over everything, and He works it all out according to His good and perfect will.
And Two. Because we fear the Righteous Judge who will pass judgement for how faithfully we have responded to our invitations and stewarded our opportunities. And I don’t know about you, but I’ll gladly give up a little comfort and emotional lightness of being in exchange for hearing my Father say, at the end of days: “Well done, my good and faithful servant. Enter into your Master’s joy.”

But, just in case the idea of waiting more than a lifetime for our reward is discouraging, we also have a shorter term promise of help and of hope. In fact, strength often comes at exactly the right time, and in exactly our moment of greatest need. But therein lies the rub. In order to receive this hope and to grow in grace, we have to come to the end of our own plans and provision, and sometimes to the end of our rope. To receive the strength that we need, we must come to the point where we have exhausted our own. In order to test His future promises with a weight-bearing faith, we must lose faith in our ability to control it all or to provide for ourselves. And what a wonderful grace this is! That our loving Father draws us to Him by revealing our need. Then, He invites us, by His Spirit and in His Word, to fall humbly into the arms of a loving Father.

He is made greater in our weakness. Our trials are not losses and difficult circumstances are not evidence that He is absent. They are opportunities to grow and to lean on Him. We glory in our suffering. Because in our weakness, He is revealed as strong. Joy unspeakable. Peace that surpasses understanding. Strength for today. Hope for tomorrow. Our daily bread.

So, here’s my challenge or admonition or encouragement to you:
In a season of insecurity and worry and fear, where it’s tempting to conserve resources, energy, and money, and to place a higher value on emotions than on truth, don’t give in and don’t give up. Don’t stop doing good. When you need encouragement, give it to someone else. When you need provision, be generous. When you need strength, build others up. When others’ insensitivity tempts you to be ugly, resist and forgive. When you have worries, needs, and fears, don’t respond in a way that adds to your shame or to the emotional burdens of others. Take them to God in prayer. Then, when He invites you to serve and love others – whether it be orphans, widows, prodigals, debtors, ex-wives, ingrates, enemies, or idiots – trust Him with that too, and be faithful to obey.

Test me in this,” God says in Malachi 3, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough for it.” He’s talking about tithe in that passage, but I have no doubt that it applies equally to our stewardship in every category of life.

And we either believe Him, or we don’t. We either trust in Him, or we trust in ourselves. And don’t we all know better than that?

Jamin Rathbun

Jamin leads GFC’s Singles Group. For more information on joining this group (currently meeting online), go to our Groups page, scroll to the bottom, and complete the form.