God pronounced one of His most severe chastenings upon Israel because His chosen earthly people “servedst not the LORD thy God with joyfulness, and with gladness of heart, for the abundance of all things” (Deuteronomy 28:47).
No genuine experience of God exists that merely involves heartless fulfillment of duty and obedience. “Joyfulness” and “gladness of heart” must accompany faithfulness, even as the Apostle Paul wrote from a Roman prison, “Rejoice in the Lord alway, and again I say, rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4).
This presents a great challenge in a world that so often brings trouble, disappointment, loss, pain and sorrow to our doorstep. “Man is born unto trouble, as the sparks fly upward” (Job 5:7). Paul himself often testified of “deaths oft,” meaning that he experienced the full gamut of trials, tribulations, heartaches and heartbreaks. Nevertheless, the man of God knew a prevailing and pervasive joy in midst of grief – “as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing” (II Corinthians 11:23-33; 6:10). How was this possible for Paul? Moreover, how is it possible for you and for me?
We return to God’s chastening pronouncement upon Israel, and in particular, His indictment that His people forgot or ignored “the abundance of all things.” Rather than remembering and affirming their Lord’s generous and undeserved blessing, Israel focused on the apparent lack that confronted them in the moment. As the saying goes, “What have You done for us lately, Lord?” Such ignorance and ingratitude sapped the Jews’ joy, and led to God’s approbation and discipline.
Been there. Done that. Having been freely and undeservedly blessed with a lifetime of ongoing reception of “the unsearchable riches of Christ,” I still too often fix my attention on difficulties and discomforts of the moment. The experience of God’s joy flies out the window when this happens, requiring the Holy Spirit and Frances (as well as many of you) to wake me up in the remembrance of “the abundance of all things.” As I’ve often told the Lord in times of clarity, “If You never blessed me again, I’d still be in Your debt for a million eternities!” I would, and even as I write these words, I shake my head in sad bewilderment that I can still be so often dense and forgetful.
I also, however, rejoice. Indeed, a large portion of God’s abundance and unsearchable riches involves His merciful patience and forgiveness. I may not have thankfully and gladly rejoiced a minute ago. But I can in this moment! The redeeming power of Christ’s blood and Spirit makes possible new beginnings of joy whenever we awaken to the remembrance of how blessed we are. No challenge we face begins to approach such gracious beneficence, given from the moment of our conception until forevermore. Yes, trouble’s coming, and is already here. However, it bows before the presence and provision of Christ in those who remember and affirm “with joyfulness of heart, and with gladness for the abundance of all things.”
“He shall see His face with joy.”