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Surprised by Joy

Copyright 2014 by Bob Rogers


Christian writer C.S. Lewis famously described his salvation experience as being “surprised by joy.” Joy is one of the fruit of the Holy Spirit listed in Galatians 5:22– and it is surprising how joy comes. Notice these three examples from the Bible:

*Joyful surprise of forgiveness from sin. When we are convicted of sin, we usually feel shame and may even experience depression. Yet confession of sin and God’s forgiveness brings the surprising result of joy. After David’s confession of the sin of adultery with Bathsheba, he cried out to God in Psalm 51:12, “Restore the joy of Your salvation to me.” God answered that prayer, for in Psalm 32 he exclaims, “How joyful is the one whose transgression is forgiven… How joyful is the man the LORD does not charge with sin…” (Psalm 32:1-2, HCSB).

*Joyful surprise during trials. When we suffer trials, we may experience stress, anxiety and worry. Yet James says that God uses trials to produce a godly endurance and maturity, which once again is a surprising reason for  joy. “Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow” (James 1:2-3, NLT).

*Joyful surprise of strength in the midst of grief. How can we experience joy in the midst of grief? Isn’t grief the opposite of joy? After the Jews returned to Jerusalem from exile, Ezra the scribe gathered all the people in the public square and read the law of Moses to the people and explained it to them. The people began to weep, grieved over their ignorant disobedience of God’s word. But the priests urged them to celebrate instead of weep. Why? They said, “Do not be grieved, for the joy of the LORD is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10, NASB). It is natural to grieve when we experience loss in our lives, but when we take a look in faith at the big picture, we draw strength from the LORD, who is our Savior. As the apostle Paul says in Romans 8:18, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is going to be revealed to us.”

So my brothers and sisters, has life got you down? Are you ashamed and grieving over your past, and anxious and hurting in the present? Then look in faith to the wonderful future you have in Christ. Surprise! The joy of the Lord is your strength.





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Gethsemane teaches us how to express our emotions

Copyright 2012 by Bob Rogers

There was an event in the life of Jesus Christ that can show us how to express our emotions. After His last supper with His disciples, just before Jesus went to the cross, the Gospels record that He went to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray. Mark 14:33 records that Jesus was “deeply distressed and troubled.” Verse 34 records that He said, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.” When He went to pray, He staggered to the ground. Luke 22:44 says as He prayed, He sweat great drops like blood. He was in incredible agony as He faced dying on the cross for the sins of the world. Jesus expresses extreme emotion in this passage, and He also models for us how to express our own emotion.
Jesus does not hide His emotion. Some people, especially men, try to suppress their emotions. We are told that “big boys don’t cry” and so when we get upset, we try to keep it under control. Especially when we experience the death of a loved one, witness something traumatic, and get very bad news, we often try to cope with it by containing our emotions. Some people suppress emotions by avoiding the subject, others joke around and watch happy movies and comedies on TV, while others turn to alcohol or narcotics. The problem is, that the emotion is still there. If you push it down when it tries to rise to the top, guess what? Your emotion stays deep inside you, and continues to do damage to you. You may develop depression, or physical sickness, and you may suddenly erupt with anger at the slightest thing.
So what should we do? We cannot ignore our emotions. We need to find healthy ways to express them. You will notice that Jesus went to a Gethsemane with only three of His disciples. It was there, in a quiet place with a small group of friends, that He told them of His emotional pain. Then, He went farther from them to pour out His heart in prayer to God.
This is a healthy pattern for us to follow. Find a quiet place, and at the right time, open yourself up to trusted friends, and let them know about your pain. Then you may need to weep over the matter alone. Crying can be an incredibly helpful release, particularly when it is done in private, where we have no inhibitions about who is watching us.
Don’t bottle up your emotions. Jesus was a man’s man, a carpenter who not only nailed nails but was able to take the nails for you and me. Yet He expressed His emotions when He was overwhelmed with sorrow. So can we.