We live in a world that frequently offers sights, sounds, images and ideas of discouragement. Our flesh is also subject to downcast feelings and sensibilities. Spiritual enemies furthermore desire to lead us into sloughs of despondency that hinder the “joy unspeakable and full of glory” promised to all who trust in the Lord Jesus Christ.
How do we respond to this three-pronged attack on our walk with God and ministry to others? The Biblical answer commands a three-pronged counterattack, as enabled by the Word of God, the Spirit of God, and the church of God.
First, we remember and affirm the countless assurances of Scripture that promise a heart of joy even in the midst of feelings and experiences of sorrow. “Thy words were found and I did eat them, and Thy Word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of my heart” (Jeremiah 15:16). Read consistently with a trusting, humble attitude, the Bible will so reveal the Heart of God to us that our own hearts will find in Him our truest and purest joy, that is, Himself. “These things have I spoken unto you, that My joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full” (John 15:11). Indeed, we could lose everything, but if Christ remained in our hearts, the essence of our joy would abide.
This speaks of the second line of counterattack, namely, the indwelling Holy Spirit. “The Comforter” applies balm to sorrow whereby our joy can be unhindered. Most importantly, He reveals and glorifies the Lord Jesus unto and within the trusting heart, providing cause for joy even in times of grief and loss. “As sorrowful, yet always rejoicing” confessed the Apostle Paul, a man whose chronicle of suffering would seem to have made continual rejoicing impossible. Nothing could be further from the truth, even as Paul wrote the joy-filled epistle to the Philippians from a Roman prison. “Rejoice in the Lord always, and again, I say rejoice” (Philippians 4:4).
Finally, we seek encouragement through the body of Christ, that is, in our fellow believers. Certainly we receive encouragement from our brothers and sisters in Christ, but our primary means of personal strengthening flows from encouragement we give out to others. “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). When we feel down, we can be sure that we are not alone. Other brothers and sisters are going through the same, and our personal challenge first provides opportunity to offer ourselves to the Lord for the encouragement of others. This may come through a word, an action, a prayer, or perhaps simply the caring countenance of our face as we self-sacrificially determine to use our sorrows as opportunity to minister comfort to others. “Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God” (II Corinthians 1:3-4).
The world, the devil, and the flesh, including our own, seek to discourage us. Let us get our spiritual dander up about it, as it were. By definition, born again believers in the Lord Jesus are vessels of His joyful heart. “The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusted in Him, and I am helped: therefore my heart greatly rejoiceth” (Psalm 28:7). Indeed, when attacked by despondency, the Captain of our salvation plans and seeks to execute counterattack (actually, He devised the plans from eternity past). Let us hear His command, and through His Word, His Spirit, and His church, let us stand to “fight the good fight of faith” (I Timothy 6:12). The victory of the risen Lord Jesus shines forth from us thereby, and joys ascend from our sorrows we would never had known had we not been tempted by defeated but blustering enemies.
“In Thy presence is fullness of joy; at Thy right hand there are pleasures forever more.”