Have you ever watched or read The Hunger Games? Your name is randomly plucked from a collection of others and you’re suddenly in a situation where you must fight for your life. The Christian life sometimes seems that way, a race, a daily battle against flesh and the kingdom of darkness instead (Ephesians 6:12). We all struggle daily with something and often life is an uphill climb. Depression sometimes affects us. Some more severely than others. It could be caused by financial frustrations, afflicted relationships with others (or lack thereof), loss of loved ones, dissatisfaction with accomplishments etc. Many of us then set off on a journey to find a large conclusive happiness that will solve all our problems. A panacea like that must be pretty rare and cost a whole lot. As a result, a lot of us hurl ourselves into activities which can actually hurt us in the long run or gratify us inconsistently.
I find it interesting that according to GotQuestionsMinistries ‘joy’ is mentioned more than 300 times in the Bible while ‘happiness’ occurs a mere 30. It is additionally striking that happiness is always caused by an influential circumstance. I can be happy to be employed but that happiness can fade when I lose my job or it gets difficult. Happiness is temporary. It can change like the direction of the wind; we will need more than that in relation to depression.
David says of God in Psalm 16:11 that “Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fullness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.” There is an eternal quality to joy that cannot be grasped in mere happiness and there is a fullness of it to be had. Bible characters were human like us. David experienced depression, he laments “why art thou cast down O my soul?” yet he advocates “HOPE thou in GOD for I shall yet PRAISE Him for the help of His countenance.” (Psalm 42:5 KJV Emphasis mine).
How does David reach this kind of conclusion?
Joy is God’s quality; thus it cannot be found within any temporal thing. Galatians 5 stresses that it is among the Fruit of the Spirit we should bear throughout our lives. But fruit must be tended to, they must be cultivated. The scripture further beckons us to “live in the Spirit and also walk in the Spirit” (Galatians 5:25 KJV). We must deliberately set out to be joyful, we must pray for it, find ourselves in God’s Word, His presence, live it out and encourage each other in it. Guaranteed, there is nowhere else to find it.
I know it isn’t a microwavable, 2 step solution we would all love to have but when we lay hold of it, we are assured that it is permanent. We may not always be happy, but there is a level of contentment that is in joy, that one speaker claims that it occurs because we are able to hope for something that has not yet come. Something that escapes all the vulnerable, perishable things of the Earth. A home with a perennial God. We may not be happy in trials but Romans 5:3-5 KJV indicates that we are able to “rejoice in our sufferings…” We must foremost place our expectation not in passing promises of man and earth but the eternal promises of God in His Word. We may not know when they are coming but we know that He cannot lie.
Jesus doesn’t deceive us into thinking that it will all be a walk in the park. He is straightforward and lets His disciples know, “in the world ye SHALL have tribulation” it cannot be eluded, yet we must “be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33 KJV). The hardest battle has already been won and so we are able to hold on until the end, with contentment. No matter how hard it is, it is possible.
When I am overwhelmed, I retreat to the refuge which never fails. I may not always be happy during the process but He gives joy and with that peace, we must take hold of it and nurture it with His guidance. He never once fails.