Is God frowning at you?

Christians have the great promise of joy and hope, and these are based on God’s grace in Christ. What better promises? And what greater foundation to trust them?

And yet, Christians may and do feel joyless and hopeless at times. When the circumstances of life bite and gnaw, when the sinful desires of our own heart roar and prowl, and when the presence of our beloved Savior seems but a distant memory, it is quite normal for Christians to feel a sense of despair. In Psalm 42, the psalmist gives literary expression to the feelings that sometimes plague us.

Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?” (v5).

I say to God… why have You forgotten me?” (v9).

Adversaries taunt me… all day long… [saying], ‘Where is your God?'” (v11).

If you feel some sense of the frown of God today, then consider the Gospel, and invite trusted Christian friends to help you discern whether or not you are truly trusting and following Christ. If their loving counsel is an encouragement that you are, then please, dear brother or sister, remember these things:

1) Remember that you have felt God’s smile before. These times are real, though they may feel distant. If God has ever smiled over you, given you His blessing and not His curse, then you may be certain that He is always smiling over you (Eph. 2:1-10).

2) Remember that God’s promises are absolutely trustworthy and not at all dependent upon feeling or circumstance. Think of Abraham and God’s delayed promise of an offspring and a nation. God doesn’t always do what we might want, but He is always working for the good ends He has prepared for His people (Rom. 8:28-29).

3) Remember that God is glorified, not in your confident self-reliance, but in your simple trust in His power and grace. Putting one foot in front of the other towards Christ is much more glorious than dashing or leaping in any other direction (Gal. 2:20).

May God grant you joy and hope, and especially if these things seem far away from you today. May you behold the glory of Christ and feel His Spirit refreshingly assure you of your glorious and secure adoption into the family of God (Rom. 8:14-17).

Joy

“Though you have not seen [Christ], you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls” (1 Peter 1:8–9).

What is Joy?

Well, I think a good way to answer this question is to contrast joy with happiness. Happiness is conditional, but one may possess joy in any circumstance. Happiness comes and goes, depending on our experiences, our feelings, and a host of other things. Joy, on the other hand, is based on an unchanging reality.

Because the basis for joy does not change, it is not subject to any of the things upon which happiness depends.

But, what is the unchanging, fixed, transcendent basis for joy?

Ah, the answer to this question is a core feature of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. So many truth statements formulate and are derived from the message of the Gospel. Those truth statements construct an indestructible foundation for joy, which is Christ-centered and not self-centered.

God has justified guilty sinners through the work of Christ. God has adopted unworthy rebels as sons. God has brought spiritual and eternal life to all those in Christ. Union with Christ is an intimate relationship enjoyed by all those who love and trust Him.

These truths and many more form the basis for steadfast Christian joy.

Therefore, we may have joy in every circumstance because Christ has demonstrated God’s love and grace for us. We may rest in that reality now, and we await the fullness of that reality in the glorious new creation.

We who love and trust in Christ may find indestructible joy in union with the God who loves us so and gives Himself freely to us.