In the last Saturday morning post we suggested that you were created by God with a specific purpose. We highlighted the fact that there’s no greater adventure or quest than to discover your calling and to live it out. Doing so brings joy to life, and will leave a legacy of faithfulness.
As you look around, you may notice that many people seem to go through life with a distinct lack of joy. In fact, the lives of many seem to be characterized by misery when the mask of “I’m okay” is set aside and they share their true feelings. You may struggle with this yourself. In fact, we all do from time to time. This is simply part of the human condition.
There’s no need to wonder why this is the case. We live in a fallen world inhabited by sinful people. We are all sinners at heart. We are driven by selfishness, greed, lust, and the desire to control our own destiny. Those who genuinely trust in Jesus for salvation are forgiven, and have assurance of heaven after life on this earth. They are also empowered by God to overcome sin and temptation. And yet, even those who walk closely with the Lord regularly mess up and need to seek forgiveness and renewed strength.
The period of history in which we live is a time of grace. Some 2,000 years ago Jesus came to the earth as a tender child. He did so as the Christ, the long awaited Messiah. Jesus came to offer us salvation and reconciliation with God. He died for our sins, and is now in heaven. At some point Jesus will return. His second coming will not be as a tender child. When Jesus returns to earth he will do so as a warrior bent on the destruction of evil. The book of Revelation chronicles how this will take place.
The time in which we now live, then, is a challenging one. Sin, wickedness, and evil are prevalent. We are subject to illness, death, and destruction. We all struggle with temptation, and corruption works its way into the hearts of many leaders. This being the case, it’s no wonder that life is sometimes characterized by misery and despair. We live in a time when things may seem okay for a while, and yet we know that the harsh and sometimes devastating storms of life are just around the corner.
Even in the midst of the most terrible storms of life, however, hope is waiting for us. We only have to reach out and accept it. One of the most recognized chapters of the Bible speaks to this very point. Psalm 23 has served as a beacon of hope for thousands of years.
Psalm 23 speaks of those who have chosen to depend on God. It was written about 3,000 years ago by David, the King of Israel. David’s life was characterized by periods of incredible peace and prosperity, and sporadic storms of life that threatened to completely destroy him and everything he held dear. It was through the difficult times that David learned to trust in and depend on God.
David speaks of these times as walking through, “The valley of the shadow of death.” Having seen God bring him through the worst storms several times, David learned that he could navigate these challenges without fear or despair. His secret was doing so in dependence on the presence and power of God. He knew that no matter how bad things got, he could depend on God. Even death could not separate him from God, and it cannot separate us from God now if we trust in Christ for salvation.
David’s dependence on God in the “Valley” is well known by many. Perhaps less understood is the second part of this short psalm. David describes how God has prepared for him a “Table in the presence of his enemies.” He goes on to say that at this table he lacks nothing. The picture is that David is dining at a table, fully supplied even as his worst enemies surround him and look on. They can threaten him all they want, yet God will give David all that he needs.
This is the secret to joy in this life. No matter how bad things get, no matter what you’ve done or what you’ve lost, God is there for you to the degree that you depend on and trust in him. In dependence on God, you can face anything. It may not be a happy time, yet happiness is not the same as joy. Happiness depends on circumstances, joy resides at the heart level. It survives in the worst of storms. It’s the sense of knowing that you are not alone, and that in the end all will be well.
The most amazing part of Psalm 23 for me is the last few words. No matter what befalls those who trust in Christ and depend on God, we know that in the end we will dwell with Him forever. When that new day begins, when we are in heaven and in God’s presence, we will be able to look back at the very worst storms of life with a new perspective. At that time we will understand why these storms had to happen and how they resulted in good. At that moment we will finally understand God’s love in a way that we never could from the earth we now inhabit.
Be of good cheer, my friend. Know that no matter what storms you face, you are not alone unless you choose to be so.