Joy in Depression

Very few people – Christians included – spend much time thinking about whether or not they have joy.  We assume that it is there.  We feel happy from time-to-time, usually because of a special moment or event.  So long as “everything’s going my way,” we don’t concern ourselves much with joy.  We don’t necessarily feel a sense of joy or delight, but we are content enough with our lives and circumstances.  So, we don’t think about joy.  After all, how ironic would it be to worry about something like joy?

But then, things go sideways.  Something comes along – perhaps a tragedy or some challenge – that disrupts the easy-going joy that we have experienced as almost a default setting.  And then we do worry about it.  “I’m supposed to be full of joy: where is it?”  We feel down, discouraged, maybe even despair.  We know that we shouldn’t feel this way.  After all, we are Christians: the joy of the Lord is supposed to be our strength.  But something has happened.  Joy is gone. 

We don’t tend to be concerned about joy until it goes AWOL.  In the good times, we take it for granted.  But then God brings along a disruption to our joy – may be in the form of a trial, but more often by letting our spirit sink. When we are low in spirit, we feel our loss.  And because we haven’t paid much attention to joy, we find ourselves stuck in a rut. How do I get my joy back?  What is it, really?  Where did it go, and how do I find it?  What does joy look like when I am low in spirit? 

We are speaking here of the garden variety forms of what we call “depression.”  Sometimes it can show up in a mild case of the blues, sometimes it can be more severe than that.  When our spirits fall, we experience a loss of joy. 

Continue reading “Joy in Depression”

What I Learned About Martin Luther King, Jr.

For most of my life, I had been taught certain things about Martin Luther King, Jr. – specifically that he was a communist and an adulterer. Looking back, I wasn’t confident that my sources told me the truth or that those characterizations painted an honest picture of King.  

I decided to study the life of Dr. Martin Luther King for myself. As part of my study, I listened to the audiobook version of Joseph Rosenbloom’s Redemption: Martin Luther King Jr.’s Last 31 Hours. I also read one of King’s earliest biographies, Let the Trumpet Sound, by Stephen B. Oates.

In hindsight, a better choice would have been one of David Garrow’s three biographies of King. Oates’ biography is thorough enough. Questions have been raised about plagiarism in his book, but that has more to do with the “gotcha” culture of acadamia than any legitimate problem with citations in his material. Oates answers these charges here, for reference. I got the overall impression that Oates was a bit too enamored with King to tackle some of the controversy surrounding his life. Nonetheless, I am glad I read this biography since it gave me a better perspective of King’s life and legacy.

When I finished those two books, I checked out from the library two documentaries about King’s life. The better documentary came from The History Channel and featured Tom Brokaw. The footage in that film included some of the most important events in King’s life. I enjoyed watching video of the things I read about in King’s biography.  

What follows is a rundown of the things I took away from my research. I know that we have little tolerance for wordy online articles, but I hope you will “endure to the end!” Perhaps this article will help you better understand one of the truly iconic characters in American history.

He was a great man.

No man is without his flaws, and King had some glaring shortcomings. But King is worthy of honor, and I am glad to celebrate him. 

By design, some men rise above the crowd. Martin Luther King, Jr was one such man. He would have been famous and wildly successful at whatever he attempted. He was a driven man; he had tremendous talent; he had a magnetic personality. The fact that he possessed so many marks of greatness makes it all the more remarkable that he dedicated his life to the civil rights movement. King did not launch the civil rights movement. Men like W.E.B DuBois and others fought for black people’s rights for many years before MLK came along. King drew our attention to the movement, put it in the national spotlight, and forced America to take note. It was the sheer force of his personality, his presence, that caught America’s attention.

He was a brilliant man.

He entered college while still fifteen years old and earned a Ph.D. when he was twenty-five. He wrote his thesis on “A Comparison of the Conceptions of God in the Thinking of Paul Tillich and Henry Nelson Wieman.” He studied nearly all the great philosophers and almost all the Great Books. He wrote at least four books in his lifetime, the first while still in his twenties. He was conversant in all the great thinkers of Western Civilization, often quoting these philosophers in his sermons. He had a grasp on the nuances of the philosophies that influence our modern era. He knew these philosophies well enough that he could discuss them at length and explain his disagreements.   

He was one of the last great orators.

It has been said that Martin Luther King was one of the last orators to use the grand style properly. I do not believe there has been a man with more natural oratorical skill since King died. 

Continue reading “What I Learned About Martin Luther King, Jr.”

Sorrow Turned to Joy

Verily, verily, I say unto you, That ye shall weep and lament, but the world shall rejoice: and ye shall be sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy. (John 16:20)

In John 16, Jesus has His disciples in the upper room, preparing them for His crucifixion.  He tells the disciples that very soon, they will be in mourning.  Pointing to this, Jesus makes a staggering promise: “your sorrow shall be turned into joy.”

How can sorrow be turned into joy?  The two seem perfectly contradictory, like a square circle or frozen fire.  Yet, Jesus made the promise: “your sorrow shall be turned into joy.”  Turn a toad into a prince, or a statue into a man, but how can sorrow be turned into joy?  The simple answer is, only by the power of God. 

Somehow, God’s recipe for joy includes sorrow.  I can’t say that I completely understand that.  In my mind, joy consists of the absence of sorrow.  Yet, God calls for our sorrows, tucks them into the cake batter, throws the mix into the oven, and brings forth a masterpiece of a cake.  There must be sorrow, or He could not turn it into joy.

Continue reading “Sorrow Turned to Joy”

Let the Healing Begin!

Spoiler alert: I don’t think Antifa was behind the assault on the U.S. Capital.  I think it was Trump supporters.  No doubt there were some bad actors there.  On the same day, January 6th, a Trump rally was held at the Utah State Capital.  At that rally, both QAnon and the Proud Boys showed up in full force.  Agitators are on the rise in our country, fueled by a growing sense of frustration and discontent. 

Caution: bad language throughout

I don’t excuse what happened, and I don’t deny it.  I think President Trump bears some of the blame; I don’t think he carries all of the blame.  I don’t think he gets a pass; I don’t give his opponents a pass.  I think we are in a real mess right now, and I don’t see relief on the horizon.

Sorry if that feels too gloomy for you.  Generally speaking, I am an optimistic person.  But in this case, we need to face reality.  We see a rising tension in our country that threatens to explode at any moment.

Immediately after the media projected Joe Biden the winner of the Presidential election, newspapers from Australia to Arizona ran the same headline, almost verbatim: “A Time to Heal”  The message was clear: a Biden presidency can bring healing to our nation.  I find it uncanny the way the news media can present the same story in almost the same words across the board.  I have often wondered whether there is a central agency that provides all the mainstream media with the verbiage for their news reports.  Perhaps if we could find that agency, we could make TV news watchable again.

The left believes that with the removal of Donald Trump, we can experience healing in our nation.  The tension in Washington is all his fault, after all.  He is a dictator, a tyrant, unhinged, a rogue, a Russian agent, Putin’s pawn.  He colluded with Russia.  He stole the 2016 election.  He is bad for democracy.  He sought a quid pro quo with Ukraine.  He is the problem.

And Joe Biden can bring healing to our land.

Continue reading “Let the Healing Begin!”

What Does Fullness of Joy Look Like?

It can be hard to grasp what “fullness of joy” really means for us in a nuts and bolts, rubber meets the road kind of way.  If you have been following along in this series, you might understand the theory, but you might wonder, “When do I get to feel joy?  Does that ever happen?” If I give you a great recipe for chocolate chip cookies, what good is that if you never taste one?

We might struggle with understanding what this fullness of joy means on a practical level.

So I can describe what joy looks like in this life, I want to first consider what joy will look like in the life that is to come.  Here’s why: the joy we experience in eternity will be the fullest joy ever experienced.  We might have reason to doubt that we are experiencing “fullness” of joy in this life, but we know that we will experience it in heaven.  In this life, God continually elevates our joy to this ultimate experience of joy. By means of His providence – both pleasant providences and hard providences – God expands our capacity for joy and increases our experience of it until we reach eternity. 

Continue reading “What Does Fullness of Joy Look Like?”

Where To?

My soul hath long dwelt with him that hateth peace. I am for peace: but when I speak, they are for war. (Psalm 120:6-7)

No Christian should rejoice at what we saw Wednesday.  No matter which side is responsible for the things that happened at our nation’s capital, whether Antifa or MAGA, we should all be concerned.  I doubt we will know the truth of the matter for a while.  We are watching our republic implode at this very moment.  And it ain’t pretty.

Continue reading “Where To?”

Fullness of Joy Comes from Abiding in Christ

Jesus said what He said in His lifetime so His disciples would experience fullness of joy.  I do not consider that a stretch, like I am making too much of joy. In His intercessory prayer, Jesus prayed…

And now come I to thee; and these things I speak in the world, that they might have my joy fulfilled in themselves. (John 17:13)

Jesus prayed that His joy would be fulfilled in us.  And He spoke so that His joy would be fulfilled in us. He wanted His disciples to experience “full” joy.

These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full. (John 15:11)

This means that Scripture itself was written so that we could experience this “full joy.” God’s Word is saturated with the joy and blessing and delight of God.  Hopefully I have made that point sufficiently in previous posts so that I don’t need to repeat the Scripture proofs for it now.  God created us to be the objects of His joy and glory and to share in His joy and glory. God’s ultimate purpose for His creation is that they should share in His eternal joy in Himself – and this is the way God glorifies Himself.

Continue reading “Fullness of Joy Comes from Abiding in Christ”

Christ’s Joy Remaining in Me

These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full. (John 15:11)

Christmas was a week ago, so by now you realize that you won’t be having that classic Hallmark Christmas this year either.  Christmas can be a very miserable time, especially if you are one who thinks that Christmas will solve all your problems. Too many believe the rot that Christmas has this mystical power of reconciling family members, healing diseases, and restoring happiness.

The popularity of Hallmark movies offers nearly irrefutable proof that we love to be sentimental.  We crave that perfect Christmas joy. But if we put too much stock in the trappings and the window dressings of Christmas, we set ourselves up for a big disappointment.  So, if you are experiencing the “Christmas blues” a week after Christmas is over, you might want to consider what I am saying.

Continue reading “Christ’s Joy Remaining in Me”

The Fullness of Christ’s Joy

Hebrews 1:8-9 tells us that God anointed Christ with the oil of gladness above His fellows.

But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom. Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity; therefore God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows.

We can learn the character of Christ’s joy from this text. One thing we learn is the abundance of it — His joy is above His fellows — Jesus Christ has more joy than any other person.  “Jesus Christ is the happiest being in the universe.”[1]  Does that sound too trite to you?  If so, it is only the fault of our language and the way we use the word “happy.” To say that Jesus is the happiest being in the universe is anything but trite. More on that in a moment.

We also learn the fullness of Christ’s joy.  He has all the joy that can be had.  To apply our definition, He has a full and perfect satisfaction in Himself as the 2nd person of the Godhead, and a full and perfect delight in His own will as God.  Whenever the Bible speaks of fullness of joy, it is speaking of the joy that Christ has – a joy that the saints of God can look forward to someday when we finally enter into the joy of the Lord.

Continue reading “The Fullness of Christ’s Joy”

Fullness of Joy Is Found in Christ

Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore. (Psalm 16:11)

What is the object of your joy? If you answer that it is “yourself,” you would be guilty of a terrible conceit. Yet, the object of Jesus Christ’s joy is most certainly Himself, as there is nothing higher for Jesus to delight in or to enjoy than Himself.

The joy of Jesus Christ consists of an absolute satisfaction in Himself and a delight and joy in Himself.  I repeat what I said in an earlier post: that God has a complete happiness and satisfaction with Himself and with His will, and at the same time a delight in that will.[1]

Continue reading “Fullness of Joy Is Found in Christ”