"Restore my joy in Your salvation!" [Ps 51:14]
Whenever Mother Teresa observed an unhappy nun, she would say to herself, "Ah, she’s holding back on Jesus. She’s not giving herself completely to Him." Wise woman, Mother Teresa. Mother Teresa learned, as all who are mature in Christ eventually learn, that anytime we refuse to surrender any areas of our lives over to the Spirit’s conquest, peace and joy will be the first two things to flee from our lives.
Many people who identify themselves as Christians do not possess the inner peace and joy of the Lord because they are not living obediently before Him.
It simply is not possible to possess the joy of the Holy Spirit when we are grieving that same Spirit by either disobedience or refusal to give ourselves to Christ completely.
Christ Himself taught that to the extent we are willing to obey His commands is to the extent we will possess His inner joy. Listen closely to what He said when speaking to the crowds long, long ago:
"If you obey My commands, you will remain in my love...I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete." [Jn 15:10-11].
When Jesus taught these words, He revealed to us that there is a direct correlation between our obedience to His commands and the inner joy of the Holy Spirit.
At the age of 21, I made a decision to follow Jesus more closely and obediently. I rededicated my life to Christ and made a commitment to walk in His ways. As the years went by, however, I couldn’t understand why I was still so miserable, depressed, and discontent all of the time. I was going to church, attending prayer meetings and Bible studies left and right, involved in different ministries, but I was absolutely miserable. I had no joy whatsoever.
I didn’t realize at the time, however, that my lack of inner, spiritual joy was the direct result of my refusal to completely surrender myself to the Spirit of God’s control over my life. I was clinging to the cross for purposes of salvation, but neatly avoiding it when it came to sanctification.
I would use filthy language whenever I became angry. I would pilfer supplies from the office for my own personal use. If someone at work angered me, I simply wrote them off and refused to speak to them. At home, I was as selfish as the day is long. Even though I was going to church, I was still calling the shots in my life. I did what I wanted to do instead of yielding to what the Spirit wanted me to do.
As I matured in the Lord, little by little, I yielded to the Spirit’s work of sanctification in my life until these patches of unsurrendered territory were gradually conquered by the Spirit of Christ. That’s when His joy came.
I found that the more I yielded my entire being to the will of the Lord, the more His joy welled up in my inner being. Death to self resulted in an unexplainable spiritual joy. But whenever I would go astray from my obedience to Christ and His will, allowing my flesh to rule the day, instead of His Spirit, my depression and discontentment would return and His joy would completely dissipate.
Are there times when depression is caused by a genuine physical problem? Absolutely. In my own life, I have had to be treated with natural bio-identical hormones in order to correct a hormonal imbalance that was turning me into Mr. Hyde every month. If we are suffering from certain nutritional deficiencies, hormonal imbalances or thyroid problems, depression will be the result.
But when we get these physical problems corrected, and we still find ourselves suffering from depression day after day, that’s when it’s time to examine our spiritual life with Christ a little more closely.
Many times that depressed feeling is the Holy Spirit within us grieving because there is an area (or areas) in our lives in which we may be refusing to completely yield to the Lord.
I cannot emphasize this truth enough. If we are not yielding ourselves completely to the Holy Spirit’s work of sanctification in our lives, we grieve Him. He isn’t content with 50%, 75%, or even 95%. He wants all of you - 100% - and He will accept nothing less. When He is grieved, we feel it in our spirit.
Yielding ourselves to the Spirit entails more than church attendance or involvement in a ministry. God wants complete control of our attitudes, our priorities, and our desires.
When we start doing what we want to do, thinking what we want to think, saying what we want to say, and going where we want to go, we take control of our lives instead of relinquishing it to the Spirit of God, and He becomes grieved. That depressed feeling is very often His grief. It’s God’s way of letting us know that something is amiss in our walk with Him that needs to get straightened out.
In the United States alone, millions of people are suffering from depression. Millions. They think that by taking a pill they can drive it away, but it refuses to be dislodged. They then try psychological counseling, but this, too, often ends in failure.
They do not understand that much of the time, depression is a spiritual problem, not a physical one. Man was created by God and for God. If he refuses to live for the purpose in which He was created, depression will naturally follow because he is living a dysfunctional and disordered life.
The depressed feeling that people struggle with is their soul and spirit longing to be reconnected and reconciled with the Creator, for whom they were created. What they are feeling is spiritual emptiness. Pills and psychological counseling will never cure spiritual emptiness; only repentance and reconciliation with God can drive it away and keep it away.
In our quest for inner joy, I believe that the first place to start is in one’s prayer life. When you go before the Lord in prayer, pour out your heart to Him. Don’t just talk at Him and ask Him for things. Speak to Him from your heart. Speak intimately to Him about everything, including your screw-ups and failures.
When we ‘get real’ with God in prayer, our time with Him in prayer becomes enjoyable, really enjoyable. I have found that this intimacy that we achieve with God in prayer becomes a restraint in our lives from doing what we want to do and going where we want to go. Prayer keeps us close to God. When we are close to Him, we won’t want to grieve His Spirit. We will want Him to be in control and not our flesh.
Sometimes, when I’m tempted to lose my temper or do something that I know Jesus wouldn’t do, I think about how I’m going to feel later on, when it’s time for me to go before Him in my nightly prayer time. I can’t tell you how many times this has stopped me from going my own way, rather than God’s.
There’s nothing worse than going before God in prayer, knowing that you deliberately did something that grieved Him, and then trying to pray, worship, and fellowship with Him as if it never even happened. We can praise and talk up a storm all we want in our time with Him in prayer. But until we make right that which we did wrong, His finger will continue to apply a miserable pressure to our hearts until we find ourselves spiritually squirming in His presence and giving Him the confession that He desires.
Satan is well aware of the restraining power we receive in daily prayer, which is why he endeavors night and day to distract God’s people with the things of this world in order to keep them from spending time with Him in prayer. Avoiding daily prayer causes us to grow cold in our love for Christ. It causes us to become desensitized to the grieving of His Holy Spirit. When we become cold and desensitized, we are easy prey for the evil one, who ever lives to lead God’s children into sin.
My brothers and sisters, I want to encourage you to give yourself completely to the Lord. Hold nothing back and see how quickly His joy will well up in your inner being. But if you insist on holding back from the One who loves you so, understand that no pill or psychological session will take away your suffering, for it is the Spirit within you that is crying out in pain, and not your flesh.
Our God is a jealous God. He will share you with no one. You were created by Him and for Him. He will do whatever it takes in your life until He has won you over and you have completely become His possession. He will not settle for anything less than 100%.
Return to Him with all of your heart, beloved. Give Him that which He desires, that which He alone is entitled to...
...and see how quickly the joy of your salvation will be restored unto you.
Join the new media evangelization. Your tax-deductible gift allows Catholic.net to build a culture of life in our nation and throughout the world. Please help us promote the Church's new evangelization by donating to Catholic.net right now. God bless you for your generosity.
|Print Article||Email Friend||Palm Download||Forums||Questions||More in this Channel||Up|
Write a comment on this article|