For many years I would have told you I was a Christian but did not know what it was to have joy. How is that possible? Christians are supposed to have joy. After all, it’s a fruit of the Spirit as listed in Galatians 5: 22-23, along with love, peace, patience, etc. (I’m too impatient to list the rest… 🙂
In John 10:10, Jesus said that he came to bring us life, and life to the fullest. He tells us that this new life of ours is to be one of abundance. We can describe it as a rich, satisfying life, one with purpose and meaning. Isaiah 12:3 says that we will draw waters from the well of salvation with joy and Psalm 16:11 tells us that there is joy to be found in the presence of our Savior.
But I didn’t have it. There were things that hindered my joy.
- Pain and the wounds from my past
- My sins of anger, unforgiveness, unkind and harsh words
The Obstacle of Pain and Childhood Wounds
This hindrance is the way I responded to people hurting me. Since I was unloved, I refused to love others. Since I was hurt, I became self-protective and self-pitying. I believed that I wasn’t worthy of love and didn’t have the same ability to love that others had. Self-pity caused me to rehearse all the things I had missed out on and the ways I was flawed and damaged. Self-protection became an excessive self-focus. Even if I desired to love others, I was too busy worrying about and pitying me. This obstacle produces profound selfishness.
The Obstacle of Unbelief
I grew up in church, learning the Bible. I could quote many verses to you about God’s love and forgiveness, but I never really believed them for myself. His love was for other people, those good Christians. Since I hadn’t experienced much love, I couldn’t imagine how a holy God could love me. And I had done so many bad things that he couldn’t possibly forgive me for all of them. I didn’t believe God’s Word was completely true for me, in my situation, and I wallowed in unbelief. We are told without faith it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6). This attitude, fueled partly by self-pity, is essentially a sinful and stubborn frame of mind.
The Obstacle of My Bitterness
I am lumping anger, unforgiveness and unkind words into the category of bitterness, since they are included in its characteristics. We are told that the sin we hold onto separates us from God; that He doesn’t hear us when we have unconfessed sin in our lives (Psalm 66:18). But being caught in the trap of sin isn’t a mortal wound or a fatal flaw for us; we have forgiveness in Jesus! We are promised in I John 1:9 that He will forgive when we confess our sins to him.
But sometimes when we are caught in a cycle of sin, we can’t see it or realize what we are doing.
Bitterness is an especially deceitful sin because it’s always easier to blame the other guy, the one who has wounded or wronged us. How we are sinning in response is not something we want to examine. We justify ourselves by reasoning that our actions aren’t as bad as theirs or that they started it anyway.
Dear friend, if you are lacking joy in your Christian life please examine these three obstacles and see if any apply to you.
And if so, run to Jesus and confess your sin of unbelief or selfishness or whatever it is. Repent of anything that is blocking the joy that we’re supposed to have as God’s dearly loved children.
And then, believe you are loved. Believe that he has forgiven you and has a wonderful purpose for you.
Do you have joy in your Christian walk despite the trials you may be facing?