I am struggling to have joy, and instead I have been feeling depressed, anxious, despairing, and even bitter at times. I keep looking at my circumstances—sins with which I am still struggling and dishonoring the Holy God I love, unfulfilled (and even godly) longings that have not come to fruition, relationships that are still strained, people with whom I am frustrated, and the ways in which I am frustrating people I love, etc. Last night, the Lord lovingly led me to this passage in Philippians.
Philippians 4:4-9 “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. 5 Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; 6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. 9 What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.”
The Lord commands my joy in Him. What a loving command! Yet, it is something I cannot do apart from Him! I cannot conjure up joy.
This section in Philippians offers tools to help me:
1) Prayer. I am called to earnestly seek him, thank Him, and ask Him for help. When I do this, I am promised that the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard my heart and mind in Christ Jesus.
2) Disciplining my thoughts. When my mind wants to dwell on my circumstances, my failures, and the failures of those around me, I must ask myself: Are the thoughts I am thinking TRUE? Are they HONORABLE? Are they JUST? Are they PURE? Are they LOVELY? Are they COMMENDABLE? Is there any EXCELLENCE in them? Are they WORTHY OF PRAISE? I am called to fill my mind with good things, and not to allow unworthy things to occupy my mind and time. The best way for me to do this is to be in God’s perfect Word. We are called to take what we learn and see in Scripture and live these things out. We simply cannot do that if we are not reading the Word regularly.
Philippians 3:12-21 is especially helpful to me when I consider the tools that are being offered to me by God through Paul. In the book of Philippians, Paul is awaiting his own torture and death because he has pursued the gospel he loves. In his trial and hardship, Paul talks about persevering. I can see that Paul has filled his mind with the hope of glory. His mind is on what is unseen—the promise of being with the Lord without separation of any kind! This enables Paul, whose life looks like a failure in worldly terms, to instead have supernatural, persevering, and scandalous joy that baffles those who don't know Jesus.
Philippians 3:7-21 “But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— 10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. 13 Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. 15 Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. 16 Only let us hold true to what we have attained. 17 Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. 18 For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. 19 Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. 20 But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.”
Dear Heavenly Father, Thank you that you are the hope of glory! Thank you that the worth of knowing and following you far surpasses any suffering this life can bring. Forgive us for not turning to you in prayer and in your Word. Give us eyes to see the unseen. Give us hearts that persevere in our seeking of you. Give us the strength and the will to seek you in prayer and in your Word. I pray for myself and for others who are struggling to pray and struggling to pick up the Bible. I pray for myself and others who are struggling to look beyond circumstances to see the joy that is available to us in you. I ask for your forgiveness for my lack of joy in you, because it is rooted in my exalting my earthly circumstances over the surpassing worth of knowing you. Forgive me for not living out of faith. I do believe in the richness of my inheritance in you and every spiritual blessing available to me in the gospel of my Beloved Christ! Spirit, fill us with yourself. We thirst for you. We need you! In Jesus Name, Amen
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