Recently I have been praying for hope and joy in all circumstances. I began to notice a pattern that when I struggle hard with depression, I no longer have joy and I no longer have hope. And to allow depression to dictate this gives it way too much power and I no longer want to do that.
Usually, when I pray things like this, God moves quickly and in ways I never expect. And it is almost always painful. Why is this the case? God cares about our joy and our hope, and he wants it to always be found in him. When my joy and hope seemingly disappears when my circumstances change it shows that my hope is in other things, worldly things.
And as the bible says this is fleeting, so why do I (and countless others) continue to do this? Well, for me, it is easier. When hard circumstances come about and I have my hope in the circumstances, I then feel able to get angry at God, blame him and then I can give up. I don’t have to continue to fight this battle if its Gods fault they have happened in the first place.
But this is so wrong for several reasons. The first of these being, it completely throws the gospel in Gods face. It says, ‘yeah I know Jesus went through the most pain imaginable taking on my sin so I don’t have to so I can be in a relationship with you. However this is too hard, and you aren’t worth it.’
Secondly, God is perfect (literally) and it is never ever his fault for our sin and although he allows us to be tempted, he is never the one who actually does it (James 1: 13-15). And he also doesn’t delight in our suffering, he uses it for his glory and for our ultimate good, but he never intended it. Suffering is a result of living in a fallen world (that happened due to Adam and Eve eating the forbidden fruit in the garden of Eden).
Thirdly, our joy and hope shouldn’t be in things other than in him (even though it is), so when God removes these things that have stolen our joy and hope, it is a kindness. Because putting our joy and hope in these things will ultimately leave us completely hopeless and joyless.
And this is something that I completely understand, recently when God took away what had stolen my joy and hope (people, holidays, nearly stable mental health), it came to my (and others) attention, that I didn’t have any joy or hope anymore. I ended up completely joyless and hopeless. But once God showed these things to me, I realised what true joy and hope look like.
- It is having the ability to say true things about God. When I was joyless and hopeless, I couldn’t say that God was good, that he loved me, that he is working things for my good. And I found it hard to take when others said these truths to me (and I have an incredible church family who does this regardless of whether I want to hear them or not).
- It is being able to speak truth into others life. When I had no true understanding of his grace, love, mercy, and kindness, I was in no position to say these things to other people. You can’t extend forgiveness to someone when you aren’t living in knowledge of that forgiveness. You can’t extend grace to someone when you aren’t living in knowledge of that grace. You can’t tell someone God loves them and is present through all circumstances if you can’t believe it for yourself.
If you are struggling with one or both of these steps ask God to show you what truly is taking your joy and hope.