I love living in Montana. Where I am located up in the mountains, I am surrounded by tall pines on all sides. I have a gorgeous view of our ‘big sky’ and am regularly treated to sightings of many of God’s creatures. After more than twenty-five years I still never get tired of it.
In the summer our days are so long I tend to lose track of time and often, get surprised by how late it is. But our winters on the other hand, have very short days. Even shorter with those same tall pines blocking the last of the pale winter sun as it descends behind them.
Depending on what I am doing and if it is overcast or snowing, lights may have to come on as early as 3:30 – 4:00 pm; which makes for very long evenings. Day-time runs out it seems, making it harder to get things done.
Some years the short days and long dark nights really bother me. I have some claustrophobia, so I don’t use curtains, just short valances; so I see the darkness filling the window panes. One thing I have done, and have gotten help from, is to put up what I call my ‘winter’ lights in my front room. They are two sets of white lights and one ice blue set. These stay up all winter until the days lengthen enough and I want to take them down.
I share this to show one thing that I have physically done to help lift up myself. If you have other ways you combat the dark evenings feel free to share them in the comments below.
Now spiritually speaking, God has, in His word, told us many times how to have joy. Most of which has to do with praising Him. Jesus Himself said that He came to give us an abundant life. He wasn’t speaking of material abundance, but of spiritual abundance which includes joy.
I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.
In the verses talking about joy that I will be sharing in this post, all but one require us to make a decision to have joy. It requires action, a choice on our part.
Now I know how depression, despair and discouragement haunts many of us. Illness, chemical imbalances, chronic pain, loneliness and financial problems all work hard to steal our joy. The enemy especially doesn’t want to see the children of God living victorious lives and does his best to rob us of it. And he knows the best way to do that is to steal our joy.
The verse above is quite well known, but did you know the preceding part of the verse shows why Jesus spoke those words.
The thief does not come except to steal,
and to kill, and to destroy.
The thief is the enemy and he knows how much more we could accomplish for the kingdom if we were filled with the joy of the Lord. And he will do anything to keep us from having joy and an abundant life. Why is he so concerned about us having joy? Because of what it does for us.
Do not sorrow,
for the joy of the Lord is your strength.
Now do you understand? Only through the joy of the Lord, can we be strong. He is the One Who offers it. We have to reach out and take hold of it and put it to use in our lives. Think back in your mind to some very happy times. When you were in those moments it was like nothing could bring you down. That is how God wants our lives to always be.
Because Your lovingkindness is better than life,
My lips shall praise You. Thus I will bless You while I live; I will lift up my hands
in Your name. My soul shall be satisfied
as with marrow and fatness,
And my mouth shall praise You with joyful lips.
When we can go day to day in the strength from that joy, there isn’t much that will be able to get to us. Our physical and mental health issues will even be a bit easier to bear when we choose to have His joy. I am not saying they will completely disappear. Just that they may be easier to deal with; to get through the day.
In a previous post I mentioned what praise does for us in keeping the enemy at bay. click here It also goes a long way in filling us with joy. When we praise God, our spirit wells up within us, overflowing with love for our Father; which in turn floods us with joy. The more we praise, the more we stay filled up. The more we stay filled up with joy, the less our pain bothers us, our depression can lift, our burdens are eased.
Be glad in the Lord and rejoice, you righteous; and shout for joy, all you upright in heart!
When we begin to live this way, filled with His strength and His joy, the enemy has a hard time reaching us. Living in His strength through our joy is like a protective screen around us you might say. Our life becomes one that is saturated with joy and that can’t help but improve our outlook and even our physical state.
Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoices; my flesh also will rest in hope.
Life can be hard if we try to live it on our own strength. God provided a way to make it easier but we have to make the decision to reach out and take it. It’s our choice.
Until next time, God bless.