Tuesday, 8 March 2016

The Joyless Life

If I asked you to describe life as a Christian in one word, what would it be?  Tragically I don't think we would often use the word joy.  In fact I can't help thinking that it wouldn't make it's way into our top 5 words.  Joy is not something that characterises us as Christians and yet it is a word that is liberally used in the Bible, and in some quite surprising places.  And yet we seem to be more characterised by a Christian melancholy or even grumpiness.  Is it any wonder that our faith does not provoke questions of those around us, it is too readily lost, to easily swamped by the worries and cares of the world around us.  The situational and circumstantial swiftly drives out what should deb our settled experience.

I was preaching Psalm 42-43 on Sunday and was struck by the Psalmists determination to search for and find the joy he had previously known in God.  He describes it in quite striking tones.  Firstly he begins by remembering back to what was lost, his joy in a closeness to God, the joy he used to have as he gathered with others to praise God (do you remember what that felt like, when going to church wasn't a duty or a habit but a joy?).  "These things I remember as I pour out my soul: how I used to go to the house of God under the protection of the Mighty One with shouts of joy and praise among the festive throng." (Psalm 42v4)

Then he looks forward with longing to the day when he feels that joy again, when God has answered his prayer and he can return to Jerusalem, when the mockery stops and he again gathered with God's people in God's place.  "Then I will go to the altar of God, to God, my joy and my delight. I will praise you with the lyre, O God, my God."  (Psalm 43v4)

It is striking that in Psalm that walks us through the Psalmists spiritual depression what has caused
him to be depressed is his loss of his joy in God and his intense desire, his thirst, (Psalm 42v1) to see it restored to him.  It is a striking Psalm, that is helpful as a prayer for us to pray when we are struggling, but also in exposing how we settle for dreariness rather than joyfulness, a halfhearted duty rather than a delight in our glorious God and gospel.  Is my life marked by this joy?  If not, am I hungry to know it again?  And what on earth is wrong with me if I am not?

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