Birth of this series And the birth of this series was my observation that the average joy level across the people of our city, and likely our state, nation and world seems to be on the decline. And the common courtesies and kindnesses seem are seeming to be more and more uncommon. Simple things like:
It seems to me that our society is smiling less, talking less, joking less, and interacting less.
And at the end of the day, I’m less concerned with what ‘the world’ is doing, when the world gets darker, it just makes out light shine all the brighter. So I’m concerned not with ‘the world’ so much as I want to protect and empower the people of God to not let the attitude of the world corrupt our God-given nature.
And last week we talked about Spiritual Joy, which is quite different from Worldly Happiness.
And how spiritual joy is not something that we lack and need to gain, but rather, Joy is the default nature of the healthy Christian. And so if we lack joy, it’s not a joy problem, it’s a spiritual health problem. Because joy is who we are. And so while joy is not something we need obtain, it is something we have to fight for.
Because we have an enemy that wants to steal our joy, not because he cares about your emotional state, but because he wants you weak.
The book of Nehemiah teaches us that the joy of the Lord IS our strength. And when we lose our joy, we lose our strength. And when the church loses it’s joy, we come across as weak to the world, because we ARE weak.
Now notice the spelling of Mourning there. Not ‘morning’ as in early in the day, mourning as in grief.
And last week I briefly touched on something that I hope to unpack this morning and that’s this: Earthly happiness cannot endure pain, but spiritual joy endures THROUGH the pain.
And so what I believe God wants to accomplish this morning is to equip you with tools and truths that will aid you in protecting your joy even through seasons of loss, and grief, and sorrow.
Jesus went on to say, “In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me.” (John 16:16)
At this, some of his disciples said to one another, “What does he mean by saying, ‘In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me,’ and ‘Because I am going to the Father’?” (John 16:17)
They kept asking, “What does he mean by ‘a little while’? We don’t understand what he is saying.” (John 16:18)
Jesus saw that they wanted to ask him about this, so he said to them, “Are you asking one another what I meant when I said, ‘In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me’? (John 16:19)
Very truly I tell you, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy. (John 16:20)
A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world. (John 16:21)
So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy. (John 16:22)
Years ago, when I was growing up, one easter morning my sister and I woke up and walked outside to see that my parents had surprised us with 2 little chicks (baby chickens) to have as pets. I got one and my sister got one. And we were so happy. These precious little chicks were so sweet and soft and cuddly and just the best. We fought over who’s room they would sleep in and ended up taking turns, we named them although I don’t remember the names. We even bought this little miniature chicken roost that we put in the backyard. It had these little steps where they could go in. We were happy.
Well, as a little time passed, the chicks started to turn into little teenager chickens. Not nearly as cute, but we still loved them.
We one day I was in the backyard with my friend, really hot summer day, and my friends and I decided we wanted to play hide and seek. So we started playing, and of course my chick was out there with us. Well my chick was following me around and tweeting, and giving up my hiding spot. So I grabbed my chick, and put him in the roost, closed and locked the door, and kept on playing. And totally forgot about putting him in there until that evening my parents sat me down, and told to me that I had killed my chick. It was like 100 degrees outside and there was no ventilation in the roost. So I had literally cooked my precious little chick alive.
And I remember what that did to my young little heart. I had never experienced grief and sorrow and regret like that before.
And how that night, and in the days following, how that sorrow become like this dark passenger that went with me everywhere I went.
I of course got over it, as kids do. Some of those lessons are why having little pets can be helpful when you have kids. That’s how you learn.
And now 30 years have passed, and my perspective has changed, because I’ve been exposed to grief and sorrow and sadness on a much larger level.
And I’ve seen a huge range of responses from people who have suffered loss.
Some people you see, they lose a loved one, and their life completely collapses. They lose their will to live, they lose their will to eat, everything from top to bottom is just fear, and pain, and despair.
Conversely, I see people who lose a loved one, and they experience sorrow, and grief, and loss, and sadness, but there’s something at work at a deeper level than emotion, that seems to be keeping them afloat.
And of course everywhere in between.
And that made me start asking “What’s the difference?” These are all Christian people. But for some of these people their faith seemed to be keeping them afloat whereas other people, their faith was still there, but it seemed like it should have kicked on at those moments and at least from the outside, it didn’t. What’s the difference?
And I know this may seem like an oddly specific message to a general audience. Not everyone is going through grief. And I totally get that. But let me try to persuade you that developing that inner ‘buoyancy’ like we talked about last week, developing that and strengthening that inner fortitude and strength that comes from spiritual joy, developing that NOW is one of the best things you can do. For when life happens.
Life happens to all of us. If you’ve been on this planet for at least 5 years, you’ve experienced things that seek to rob you of your joy.
The first that happens when you’re born, you come out, soaking wet, and what’s the first thing that happens? ‘Bam’ - The doctor slaps you. It’s life’s way of saying “You better get used to it. There’s plenty more slaps where that came from.”
And so I hope that this message would be helpful to you if you’re in a season of grief, but I believe it will be just as helpful for you if you’re not, because the best time to learn how to fight is in training season, not in the middle of a battle.
Something you may not know about me, is that many weeks that I speak, I ask Pastor Shirley to sit down with me, and I share some of the things on my heart and give her an opportunity to pour decades of preaching experience and bible study, and pastoral ministry INTO me. And I let her share her heart and I sit on my computer and type as fast as I can type.
Well when I was starting this series, I sat down with her and shared what I was thinking. And if you know Pastor Shirleys story, you of course know that she’s had her own season of grief and sorrow these past few years, but she was one of those people I talked about that we could see she was experiencing sorrow but at the same time she had a buoyancy that kept her from sinking too far down into it.
And I asked her this question. I said “Pastor Shirley, when you feel like the enemy is attacking your joy, how do you fight against that?”
And Shirley, didn’t even think about it and she said “I protect my joy with the truth.”
She said “It’s no different than anything else. I fight the devil with the truth. The devil is the enemy of truth.”
And she’s right. That IS where the battle happens. That when you experience loss, the enemy wants to pain of that loss, to become like a thick fog that hides the truth.
That believe it or not, one of the primary ways you fight against the loss of joy is with the truth.
Jesus says in John 8 - "You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
I went home and I talked with my wife Jordan about that. And she said that reminded her of something she was reading. She was going through Havilah Cunnington’s 'I can do hard things' workbook.
She explained that that workbook has an exercise in it. And here it is:
Let's say you're feeling bad about something, and you write down all the bad things you're experiencing. “I lost my job. I’ll never amount to anything. I’m too stupid to keep a job. I’m useless. I’m pathetic.”
And once you're done, go back and read it and pull out the facts. Facts are things that can't be disputed. - You lost your job, Your spouse died, etc. Fact. Havilah said that if you we were to do that, you'd be shocked how few facts are in there.
But if you can have the spiritual disciple and spiritual maturity to lean on the truth, you can become one of those amazing Christians that experience grief, but are not taken out by it.
I have no reason to go out of my way to hurt your feelings. That's there's benefit to that. The last thing I would ever want is to come in and be a discouragement or to be harsh to someone who’s hurting.
But I believe that if I have something from God that could potentially help you, for me to NOT share it with you, that would be hurting you.
And if I have God’s wisdom on an issue and I don’t share it with you because I’m too scared of what you’ll think about me, I believe I’ll answer to God for that, as a minister.
So the structure of my points is that these are 4 things that are objectively true. If you’re a Christian. There not open for debate, these are true things that are true of each any every Christian in the room today.
Lighthouse Truths And the way that I’m thinking about these are they are 4 ‘Lighthouse Truths’ So if you think about a lighthouse, whenever it’s dark, or foggy, these are some lights that you can focus on that will keep you headed in the right direction.
(Who I’m talking to is the Christian)
God wants to help you with your pain, just like any good parent, but listen, even if you never accept his help, and you live the most painful, defeated life imaginable, if you’re a Christian, your pain STILL has an expiration date.
Because you won’t be taking it with you.
The spiritual joy that God has put in you as a gift, that stays with you into the next life, while the pain that you experience as a part of this broken world will stay here when you leave.
And you might be thinking “Pastor David, you can’t possibly be making the point that ‘At least I won’t be hurting when I die’ ” - Actually I am. And if you understand this not in just a theological, philosophical way, but you truly believe this, it can make all the difference in the world.
To know “No matter how bad things get down here, no matter how bad I flub things up down here, the life stored up for me, is perfect.” That revelation can make all the difference in the world.
I have a high pain tolerance. I can endure pretty extreme pain - so long as I know that the duration of the pain is short.
I’m just curious
Most people understand extreme short term pain. And while we don’t seek it out, we can handle it.
With that said, for me personally, CHRONIC pain, pain that doesn’t have an expiration date, scares me to death.
I can handle pain as long as I know it has an expiration date.
So whenever you experience pain, just knowing that ‘This is a temporary sensation’ - Can be a total gamechanger.
And so we can all agree that pain in a general sense, is just a ‘in this life’ thing. But I also want you to know that grief, when handled correctly also has an expiration date in this life.
Jesus teaches us something very interesting in the verses we read earlier. He compares this interaction with pain and joy to a woman giving birth. Now that is an experience I’ve never had, obviously. But there’s a few things I want to point out. And keep in mind Jesus made this comparison before there was any pain medication or epidurals or anything. Look at what he says:
A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world. (John 16:21)
So Jesus says when a woman giving birth is in pain, but when the baby comes, she forgets her pain. And men, I want you to see that what he doesn’t say is that he pain is over, he said she forgets her pain. So her pain and her joy overlap. They’re happening at the same time. But her joy is so great, that she forgets the pain. And that’s what’s presented to us as believers, that we will certain endure pain, but the joy the is before us is so much greater than the pain, that by comparison, the pain is not that bad.
Paul says it like this:
I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. (Romans 8:18)
C.S. Lewis says it like this:
There are far better things ahead than any we leave behind. (C.S. Lewis)
Grief is fine, but man, you’re sulking. That wound might heal if you stop licking it.
Pastor Shirley said this to me: “Grief is a seasonal thing.”
And it’s something we ALLLLL experience. Grief is a natural response, and I would even argue a healthy response. But it’s a season, not a lifestyle. And it’s certainly not an identity.
But some people adopt grief as a part of them. Which is a mistake.
1 Samuel 15-16
Then Samuel left for Ramah, but Saul went up to his home in Gibeah of Saul. (1 Samuel 15:34)
Until the day Samuel died, he did not go to see Saul again, though Samuel mourned for him. And the LORD regretted that he had made Saul king over Israel. (1 Samuel 15:35)
The LORD said to Samuel, “How long will you mourn for Saul, since I have rejected him as king over Israel? Fill your horn with oil and be on your way; I am sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem. I have chosen one of his sons to be king.” (1 Samuel 16:1)
The NLT translation says this: “You have mourned long enough."
Now how can God say that to someone who’s mourning? “You’ve mourned long enough.” But he does. And in this particular case, for Samuel, mourning over the PAST was keeping from his FUTURE.
I believe the enemy wants us to give all our attention to things we cannot change.
You are not a sulker, you’re an overcomer.
Some time later, Jesus went up to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish festivals. (John 5:1)
Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. (John 5:2)
Here a great number of disabled people used to lie—the blind, the lame, the paralyzed. (John 5:3)
One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. (John 5:5)
When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?” (John 5:6)
“Sir,” the invalid replied, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.” (John 5:7)
Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” (John 5:8)
At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked. The day on which this took place was a Sabbath, (John 5:9)
So can you see what’s happening here? This guy is the sulk master. “Oh boo boo, nobody lets me in the pool. Everyone is faster than me.”
I love Jesus here. “Do you WANT to get well?” Which is not a foregone conclusion.
And Jesus tells the sulker “Get up and get going”. He requires a step of faith from the sulker.
And if I had more time, I could show you this pattern over and over and over. That people who had unfair situations thrust upon them, who could have just sat at home and pouted for the rest of their lives, received healing from Jesus, because they got up and went to him.
It’s important that I get this balance right. Grief can be healthy, grief can even be Godly, but at some point grief turns into sulking and it can keep you from your miracle.
You’ve got to believe that. You’ve gotta believe that God brings people to you when the fog is so thick that you don’t know where to go.
Hit in the Head I wonder if you’ve ever been hit really hard in the head, and you temporarily lose you ability to stand, and walk, and you don’t know your own name, or what year it is. - But if you’re lucky, when that happens you’ll have a friend nearby that says “Whooaa David, I’m right here, you just took a baseball to the head, you need to sit down. Here’s a chair.”
That’s one of the things that Godly community provides. For example, when grief hits, and you don’t know which way is up, God will put people in your life that will say “Ok, we need to call the funeral home and you need to eat something, and let’s pray that God will give us wisdom…”
And it’s stuff that you know, but when the fog is thick, you can’t see.
And who knows, 10 years may pass and they’re the ones in the fog and you’ll be the one saying “Just get in the car, I’ll drive you. Let’s get some rest. We’re doing fine.”
Joseph Backstory In the book of Genesis, there’s this boy named Joseph, and God has huge plans for Joseph, and in order for Joseph to accomplish these plans, there’s lots of specific things that need to take place.
And one day, Joseph’s father tells Joseph: “Go find your brothers”
Now you need to understand, Joseph’s brothers are in the open desert. There’s no street names, there’s no road signs, there’s no GPS, there’s no find my friends. His father gives him a rough area to go search. And as we’ll see, his father wasn’t even right. He sends Joseph not to where his brothers ARE, but where they used to be. But in this moment of the story, it is critical that Joseph locate his brothers. God’s will for Joseph’s life would have never been accomplished if he didn’t find his brothers. Look at what happens.
a man (the Bible doesn’t even tell us this mans name) found him (Joseph) wandering around in the fields and asked him, “What are you looking for?” (Genesis 37:15)
He replied, “I’m looking for my brothers. Can you tell me where they are grazing their flocks?” (Genesis 37:16)
“They have moved on from here,” the man answered. “I heard them say, ‘Let’s go to Dothan.’ ” So Joseph went after his brothers and found them near Dothan. (Genesis 37:17)
Now this seems like a small detail. A dude gave Joseph directions. But I want you to consider what a coincidence this is in the open desert. That this man just so happens to come across Joseph, and it just so happens that he happened to overhear Josephs brothers saying they were going to a new place. But without this man giving directions, Joseph would not
have accomplished his purpose.
And God brings those people into our lives.
That’s one of the things that things like Connect Groups provide. Life happens, and you don’t remember your own name, but you text somebody, and that person texts other people, and they circle around you, and they sit with you, and pray with you, and bring you food, and help you make the right phone calls.
Surely he (Jesus) has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. (Isaiah 53:4 ESV)
Here the prophet Isaiah said that Jesus has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows.
There’s a difference between experiencing grief and carrying it. You’re trying to carry something yourself that Jesus said he would carry for you. But you won’t let him.
Sometimes I’ll go to the grocery store or target with my 4 year old daughter Grace and she’ll get the idea that she wants to carry the bag of groceries to the car. I know she can’t do it, but she doesn’t know that. It’s too heavy for her. But she insists so I sit the grocery bag in front of her and let her try to pick it up. And she can’t. There’s milk in it. Her little body isn’t strong enough. So I’m standing there watching her tug and jerk and pull, and that bag won’t budge.
Eventually she has a realization. The realization is this “I can’t carry this.” And so she looks up at me and says “Dad, I can’t carry this.” And I look at her and say “I know.”
And then you know what I do? I not only carry the weight, I carry my daughter too.
Some of you have been trying carry a load, that’s way too heavy for you. Your frame is not built for that kind of pressure. And it’s a miracle you haven’t crumbled under it.
And I don’t know who I’m talking to this morning, but I believe God is saying “Let me that carry that. That’s too heavy for you. And you know what I’ll do? I’ll carry that weight, and I’ll carry you too.”
“You don’t have to carry that.”
He’s saying “I need you to remember that I put joy in you. But you’re not living from it because you’re carrying things that I told you I was gonna carry.”
“I carry the weight, you live in the joy.” That’s the deal.
And if you’re a parent in here, you know just what I’m talking about. Some of you are having to work really hard right now just to pay the bills, but you don’t want that weight on your child. You’ll carry that for them.
And as we close, I want to give people in here and online the opportunity to receive Christ.