Everyone want to be happy. In fact, if you can picture what heaven would be like, happiness would find its way into almost all of our definitions. Yet today, more than any other season in our lifetime, more and more people are void of joy. In its place, a hopeless depression has taken up residence in many of our hearts.
It didn’t just happen all at once. Hopelessness takes time to develop as depression feel more like quicksand drawing us closer and closer to our deaths. For those of us who have been dealing with depression over the years, 2020 has made many people feel like they are taking their last breath as the sand has all but covered what remains of their face.
As a pastor, I have compassion for those who are deep in this struggle. There may even be people who are reading this post who have recently thought about taking their own lives. Their struggles are real as depression and hopelessness are such powerful forces that they can mask all of the good things (and blessings) that surround us until we feel so broken and alone that ending it all seems to be the only escape. It is for those in this struggle who I am writing for today.
For those of you who still have the courage to fight against the darkness that is overtaking your hearts, I want to leave you with some very old and outdated wisdom that has helped to give joy to millions of people over many generations. Here it is:
Happiness is fleeting, but Joy is everlasting.
To be depressed is to be sad. And when we are sad, we do our best to find ways to either mask that sadness, numb our senses, or try and find ways to bring us happiness. What we don’t understand is that there are only two ways to find happiness. We can either seek to find joy in the Lord or we can seek to find joy in the things of this world.
Have you ever though about how many of the sins in our lives provide happiness? I don’t think anyone would ever want to sin if they never found enjoyment in doing it. Yet, sin provides great feelings of euphoria and can release dopamine (a chemical in our brains) that stimulates enjoyment. The fact of the matter is, seeking after worldly pleasures is the quickest way to simulate a temporary happiness in those who are facing extreme sadness.
What we need to understand is that sin has a cost. And just as Eve enjoyed taking a bite of the forbidden fruit in the garden, those who choose to seek after the happiness of this world will continue to push away the true source of Life and Joy. Here is a basic and simple Truth about God. There is no darkness in Light. And as long as we continue to embrace the pleasures of sin and darkness, true Joy will remain outside of our reach.
In Hebrews, Paul describes this concept by sharing the faith Moses had. You see, Moses had an opportunity to live a very sinful life. He could have done whatever he wanted and he could have fully embraced every worldly pleasure in the station he found himself in. And yet, he gave all of those pleasures up to seek after the true eternal joy of God.
Paul writes, 24 By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, 25 choosing rather to endure ill-treatment with the people of God than to enjoy the temporary pleasures of sin, 26 considering the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt; for he was looking to the reward. Heb. 11:24-26
I don’t think people understand that joy is not an effect we feel after interacting with God. Joy is part of the very nature of God himself. Joy is the fragrance emanating from within the Godhead. You can’t have God and not have Joy, for Joy is a fruit of the Spirit of God. You can’t separate God and Joy.
And what this means, for those who are feeling hopeless, is that Joy will never come to us if we continue to seek after the temporary things that fulfill our worldly desires. This is so vital for us to understand. Be it drugs, lust, gluttony, immorality, idolatry, television, social media, vanity, coarse talking, gossip, anger, unforgiveness, and the like; the joys we find in such things will only drive us further into our depression and feelings of hopelessness.
If having God in us is the only source of true joy we have, and if God and sin do not mix; how can we ever think that God will remove our depression if we are unwilling to seek Him and let go of the things that are actually stealing our joy instead?
God is not going to light up with us or sit next to us as we surf the web with incognito mode on. He is not going to bless the bed of our adulterous hearts or cheer us on as we binge watch hours of sin and darkness. Is destroying the temple of God an effective way to develop intimacy with Him? Of course not! Can God bless our vanity as we spend hours each day preparing for people to like our posts so we feel desired and important? He can’t and He won’t. God has even made it clear that if we are unable to forgive our enemies, we will be outside of His forgiveness and joy. All this to say, we can’t have both. Either we seek after the world and its false joy that will never fulfill our needs, or we will seek after the one who is the source of all joy and we will find Him.
Maybe there is just one person reading this post that is at the end of their rope. God wants you to have Joy. Not a false happiness that is fleeting and leaves you feeling empty the next day. He wants to give you Himself. He wants to take all He is and fill you with His presence. For some us, His joy rushes in immediately and our lives are transformed overnight. Yet, others are so deep in the sand that God knows that if He pulls to hard, they may be torn apart.
The point is, if you are feeling hopeless and depressed, the things of this world that bring temporary happiness almost always sink you deeper into despair. Jesus is still the answer. And no matter how much counseling we have from those who study the mind, the simple and easiest answer is still the one that is the most effective in bringing lasting peace and joy.
I will leave you with God’s formula for Joy.
10 If you keep My commandments, you will remain in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and remain in His love. 11 These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full. John 15:10-11
The worldly pleasures of the flesh are opposite the commands of God. Therefore, if we truly seek after joy, we must make the conscious decision to walk in the Light of God’s holiness. How do we do that? Reading our Bible is a huge piece. The other is finding fellow Christians to help you along the journey.
Therefore, I leave you with this challenge. If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts or feel hopelessly depressed, come and attend our fellowship for the next 3 months and read your Bible for 30 minutes a day. And one more thing, let us help you walk away from the things of this world that are hindering your joy. If you do all of these things, you will find joy, for Joy is with us. Sometimes God restores us instantly, sometimes it is a much longer process. No matter the case, we are here for you. You are not alone. And if you ever need to talk to someone, I am always just a instant message a way.
Those who sow in tears shall reap with shouts of joy! Psalm 126:5 May the Lord bring you tears of joy as Joy enters your heart and gives you peace.