The Lord had made them joyful. – Ezra 6:22
Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart. – Acts 2:46 (NASB)
“Raindrops on roses, and whiskers on kittens, bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens…” You might recognize those words from the musical, The Sound of Music. Maria sings it to the children when they’re sad and times are difficult. Schmaltzy? Yes. A bit too long on optimism and short on dealing with the difficulties of life? Indeed. But there is a thread of truth that runs through the song: there are good things for which we can be thankful – even when the dog bites, the bee stings, or we’re feeling sad.
True joy, however, comes not only from “brown paper packages tied up in string,” but in the wrapping of God’s love shown in Jesus Christ. Having said that, how is your joy quotient these days? Is there some place in your heart that is light and cheerful? When the Bible says, “The joy of the Lord is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10), do you believe it? Is there a sense of the goodness, faithfulness, love, and mercy of God that colors over your blue mood?
God is a realist. He does not flinch from acknowledging evil, pain, disappointment, and failure. Read the Psalms if you want to see also how God’s people handle the times of sadness and distress they face. They’re not above expressing their lament and crying out to God for help in times of trouble. But those same Psalms which begin with a cry of distress almost always end with a proclamation of God’s goodness, love, favor, and blessing.
Psalm 22 is a great example. It begins with the excruciating cry, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” It ends by proclaiming:
Posterity shall serve him;
it shall be told of the Lord to the coming generation;
31 they shall come and proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn,
that he has done it.
God invites us to lay our burdens on him. He welcomes us when we cry out in distress. “A broken and contrite heart he does not despise” (Psalm 51:17). But in the end he delights to fill us with joy. We can say, “Restore to me the joy of your salvation,” (Psalm 51:12), and he will do it.