The Bible tells us that there are ultimately two categories of people: Sheep and Goats. When the Son of Man comes in his glory he will separate the two: The goats “into eternal punishment, but the righteous (sheep) into eternal life.”
There is no in between. There are Christians and there are non-Christians.
However……within these sheep there lies a broad range of emotional dispositions. All of these sheep are saved eternally, but will differ ultimately in their quality of life.
Some are almost annoyingly peppy while others have the mope of Eeyore.
This is a fact.
But let me tell you another simultaneous fact: Joy is a fruit of the Holy Spirit.
This is joy for the Eeyore Christian, the burdened Christian, the busy Christian, the overwhelmed Christian, as well as for the Christian with a natural, joyful outlook.
But for many Christians there is no consistent joy. It may come sometimes and fade at others, but there is no consistency. They are weighed down by their job, their marital state, finances, peers, self-doubt, etc.
A Natural Disposition
I find that I am a naturally pessimistic guy. My sister and I got this from my father who is another Christian in which joy comes and goes. This is my natural disposition apart from the grace of God and the work of the Holy Spirit. The cup is by default half empty.
In the past month or two this has become an acute reality for me and a consistent topic of personal prayer. I don’t want joy to come and go; I want it consistently. In fact, there is no reason in the world why it should not be there consistently. I live in America, have plenty of money when compared to a large percentage of the world, have a healthy and lovely family, a stable job, a house, etc. What is the deal?
In fact, in my past trips overseas I find that there is actually more joy in those who have less or are in less “comfortable” circumstances (but that is for another post).
This has to stop. This pessimism has to go. I remember growing up wondering each day when my dad got home what mood he was going to be in. Sometimes it was good, but most often it was not. I don’t want my family to think the same of me.
There must be more Spirit and less flesh. He must increase, I must decrease.
The natural disposition to pessimism or negativity or whatever it is keeping you and I from consistent joy is found in the flesh. It is counteracted by walking by the Spirit (Gal 5:16-18).
In addition, we are in Christ, our sins have been forgiven, we are seated in the heavenlies for crying out loud! We have been sealed by the Holy Spirit and He lives within us! Good grief! What then do you and I have to be robbed of joy?
But this is a real issue that I am bringing to God these days and you should to.
A good reformed Christian would say we need more gospel. More understanding of justification. More awareness of our sinfulness. This is true. The gospel is the answer to everything. However, the Bible is full of application to people who are in unfavorable circumstances or have a tendency toward unpredictable emotions.
So what to do?
Let’s Do This Together
A couple years ago I read a book by Martyn Lloyd-Jones called Spiritual Depression. It was quite a remarkable book and I remember the impact it had on me. It is addressed to those Christians who are Sheep, but do not live in the joy and hope that we find in the early New Testament church. It is addressed to those who have a natural disposition toward pessimism, those who have some sort of physical, emotional or psychological bent that keeps them leaving non-Christians puzzled as to what in the world actually makes Christians different from any other unbeliever.
So in addition to my prayers, time in the Word, and intentionality in this matter I will be re-reading this book.
In fact, I will be writing a post every Wednesday summarizing each chapter and possibly adding my own insight, lessons, and application.
One chapter a week.
Why don’t you join me?
If you are looking for a more consistent joy, one that does not come go due to your natural disposition, then join me and lets discuss. Let’s tackle this. No I will not be doing a book club or Google hangout but I would love for you to leave a comment on what you thought of the chapter or what the Holy Spirit has taught you through each week so we can discuss together.
Again this is not about salvation or being tossed to and fro by every wind of teaching. It is about identifying those areas of weakness, those things that rob of us joy and getting back to embracing our first love.
I think it will be a fruitful endeavor.
Posts In This Series:
Chapter 1 – Spiritual Depression – General Causes and Treatment
Chapter 2 – A True Foundation For Overcoming Spiritual Depression
Chapter 3 – The Uncertain Christian: “Men as trees, walking”
Chapter 4 – The Balanced Christian: Mind, Heart, and Will
Chapter 5 – When That One Sin Still Condemns You