Joy Restored

We have been discussing various hindrances to joy.  We discussed the way emotional pain from sorrow can disrupt our joy, and we gave some thoughts on dealing with depression and the various ways discouragement can affect our joy.  Then, we discussed the way physical pain and suffering can rob us of our joy, and we offered some suggestions for dealing with this in order to overcome it.

Throughout our lives, we will experience varying degrees of disruption to our joy from both sorrow and suffering.  These are a part of the human experience.  “Man is born unto trouble, as the sparks fly upward.”

But the most common disruption to our joy will not be from depression or pain.  The most common disruption to our joy will come from our own sinful choices and behavior.  The pain of sin is the greatest interrupter of our joy. 

Pain and suffering piggybacked into our world on the sin of Adam. I do not say that God ever intended for our world to be a pain-free world.  Pain certainly serves a wise and good purpose.  But the suffering and sorrow we experience from pain is a direct result of sin. 

I don’t say that sin directly caused whatever pain you might experience.  Sometimes, your pain is caused by your sin; sometimes your pain comes from something else.  If you can trace the pain directly to some sin of yours (e.g., an STD or a crippling leg injury from driving drunk), that is one thing.  But if you are sick or suffering from chronic pain, I don’t see it as helpful to obsess about what sin might have caused your pain.  Job’s friends had that wrong. Sin is not always the immediate cause of sorrow or suffering. But sin is the ultimate cause of it.  If a particular sin of yours has brought on a health failure, God has provided a way for you to deal with that through the elders of your church (James 5:13-16). They cannot remove the pain, but I believe this is a way of dealing with the suffering caused by that pain. I believe these are distinct things: the pain we experience, and the suffering that results from that pain. Not all pain causes suffering.

Our concern in this post is not with physical pain or health problems caused by sin.  Our concern is with the disruption that sin causes to our joy.  Previously, we defined joy as the delight and satisfaction we experience with God and His will.  When we sin, we lose our delight in God.  Sin expresses our dissatisfaction with God’s will and with His purpose for us.  Sin seeks delight in that which God forbids.  Sin disrupts our fellowship with God.  Because of the way sin directly assaults our relationship with God, sin causes the greatest disruption to our experience of joy.

You cannot experience anything like “fullness of joy” when you are under conviction for your sin.  When you know you have sinned, you feel the pain of guilt and shame.  When God chastises us for our sin, that chastisement – the divine spanking – often takes the form of broken fellowship with God and a resulting loss of joy. 

So long as we hold on to that sin or in some way justify it, our joy will be broken.  You cannot hold on to your sins with one hand and your joy with another. 

When I kept silence, my bones waxed old through my roaring all the day long. For day and night thy hand was heavy upon me: my moisture is turned into the drought of summer. Selah. (Psalm 32:3-4)

When the Psalmist spoke of his sin and the chastisement for that sin, he spoke of it in terms of broken bones.  That might sound severe, but in a spiritual sense, God broke his bones.  Those broken bones make joy impossible.  Before joy can be restored, the broken bones must be set.

The Apostle Paul spoke of the way the whole creation sorrows – both believers and unbelievers – over their sinful condition. 

For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now.  And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body. (Romans 8:22-23)

I have some good news: God has provided for our sin even after we are saved.  His provision is simple, though we may struggle to make use of the means He has provided.  We must repent.  We must confess the sin.  The bones which have been broken by sin are set through confession and repentance.

I acknowledged my sin unto thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the LORD; and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin. Selah. (Psalm 32:5)

Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.   Make me to hear joy and gladness; that the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice.  Hide thy face from my sins, and blot out all mine iniquities.  Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.  Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me.  Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit. (Psalm 51:7-12)

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1John 1:9)

Briefly then, I would like to make four points on confession:

First, confession means saying what you did. 

The word “confess” translates the Greek word homologeo. The root word logeo means “to speak.” The prefix homo means “the same.” Homologeo means “to say the same thing.”  Confession of sin requires us to say what God says about my sin, acknowledging that He is right about it.

Second, true confession is honest. 

Somebody quipped, “The wages of spin is death.” If you aren’t sure what to say about your sin, ask God what He says, and then say that.  But don’t rationalize your sin or try to talk your way around the sinfulness of it. When it comes to confession, spin is sin.

Third, true confession is personal. 

You must confess your own sins, not the sins of those who provoked you, or the ones who hurt you, or the sins of the people you blame for your sin.  It is quite easy to be brutally honest about the sins of your neighbor.  But that kind of honesty never leads to restored fellowship with God or a renewed joy of your salvation. 

We can find plenty of experts on their neighbor’s sins.  While that might give a temporary sense of satisfaction and accomplishment, it does nothing to restore the joy of your salvation.  In the end, you have only added to the burden of your own guilt.  Because the harsh standard of justice you apply to your neighbor rightly belongs to yourself.  “For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again” (Matthew 7:2).

In this sense, you can easily sin by the very act of confession. When you apply your precision tool to your neighbor’s sin but never use it on youself, that is sin.  Brutal honesty about the sins of your neighbor demonstrates a harbored bitterness and an unwillingness to forgive that person.  And that may very well be the main culprit for your miserable life. 

Fourth, true confession is done in the present, not in the future. 

If you have decided to wait this one out until you have grown tired of the sin before you do any self-examination or confession, you can expect to have your broken bones for quite some time.  Restored joy will not come quickly or easily in that case. 

I saw a video fail of some poor fellow diving off the high dive.  Somewhere between the time he stepped off the edge and the time his body started to hurtle for the water, he changed his mind about the whole deal.  It was pretty ugly.  As he fell, he grabbed for the rail, smashed into the platform, slid down the rail scraping against the dive platform, and banged his head for good measure. He ended up in the water, just like if he had actually done the dive. But since he hesitated, he got beat up pretty badly on the way down into the pool. 

Image result for dive platform lake shakamak
The old dive tower at Lake Shakamak. My dad could do a perfect swan dive off this tower.

Sometimes, a Christian will stand at the top of that same high dive, knowing that there is only one way down, but not willing to go down that way.  But you are going down, one way or the other.  You can go down the way you ought to, or you can go down some other way. 

Half-measures of repentance add to the guilt and do more damage to the soul.  If you have a broken bone, ignoring the pain doesn’t serve any good purpose.  A Christian may decide that confessing the sin will bring embarrassment.  So, he doesn’t.  He may lie in his bed late at night confessing the sin, but if he never confesses the sin to the person he has wronged, then he hasn’t dealt with the sin.  He is afraid to say what he has been doing – he has been angry, or he has been petty, or he has been critical, or he has been greedy, or he has been vain – and he doesn’t want to say it because then other people will know what he has been. 

How silly!  How insane!  Everyone knows what you have been.  Your confession doesn’t tell them something they didn’t already know about you.  Your confession tells them that you know what you have been doing is wrong.  That’s what they need to know.  They need to know that you are humbling yourself.  That is the beauty of confession… it helps the people who know what you have done to know that you think it is wrong too.

When we humble ourselves this way, God promises to lift us up.  Our hearts tell us the opposite (of course). Our hearts deceive us into thinking that confession will take us down a notch or two.  But God says differently.  The Lord will lift you up.  Better yet, He will restore the joy of your salvation.

One More for the Road

Our joy will often be disrupted in this life so that it seems like a fleeting and temporal thing. But we can be encouraged by the fact that our sorrows are also fleeting and temporal things.

There are no immortal sorrows for immortal saints. [1]

Sorrows come, but sorrows also go.  We suffer today, but tomorrow we will have another chance to rejoice. “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.”

When we have come to the end of our lives, our Lord will say to us, “Well done, good and faithful servant… enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.” And in that great day, you will experience everlasting joy, that cannot be taken away, that will not fade or diminish or face any more interruption.

Therefore the redeemed of the LORD shall return, and come with singing unto Zion; and everlasting joy shall be upon their head: they shall obtain gladness and joy; and sorrow and mourning shall flee away. (Isaiah 51:11)

The unrepentant sinner will find that the opposite is true. His joys in this life are like a thin layer of ice — thick enough to lure him out onto the lake, but too thin to support him. In time, he will find that his opportunity for joy has run out. But for the believer, our joy will never end.  It might be disrupted.  Our experience of joy will wax and wane.  Our joy will always be filtered through some sort of pain or sorrow or disappointment.  But we can be sure of this: that our joy will increase more and more until the day we hear that “Well done.”

Be encouraged by this!

[1]Spurgeon, Charles H.: Spurgeon’s Sermons: Volume 52. electronic ed. Albany, OR : Ages Software, 1998 (Logos Library System; Spurgeon’s Sermons 52)