Everlasting, Unshakable Joy

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The Lord is angry with all nations… (Isaiah 34:2). 

Perhaps that verse surprises you in light of the title of this post, “Everlasting, Unshakable Joy,” but stick with me.

These phrases from Isaiah 34 do sound like terrible news:

  • God is angry with all nations
  • His wrath is on all their armies
  • God will totally destroy them
  • Even all the starry host will fall
  • God Himself says, “My sword has drunk its fill” 
  • All the world’s princes will vanish away 

But please keep in mind that this is only bad news for those who don’t have their sins forgiven through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. “For the Lord has a day of vengeance, a year of retribution, to uphold Zion’s cause” (v. 8). And, “He will come with vengeance; with divine retribution He will come to save you” (35:4). 

So God’s anger is not at those whose sins have been forgiven, but at those who are not only unforgiven but hell-bent on attacking those who are forgiven. 

These words are intended to “strengthen feeble hands, steady the knees that give away,” and to bring strength “to those with fearful hearts” (35:3-4). 

The righteous have nothing to fear when the world is quaking in fear! “They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crowned their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away” (v. 10)! 

This is why Jesus told us, “I tell you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more” (Luke 12:4 NIV), and, “Save your fear for God, who holds your entire life—body and soul—in His hands” (Luke 12:5 MSG). And also the apostle Peter reminds us that we do not fear what the world fears (1 Peter 3:14). 

If your sins are forgiven, if you are walking in God’s paths, if you are seeking to savor the glory of God, and desirous that His glory be seen on earth as it is in heaven, there is not only nothing to fear, but you will have an everlasting, unshakable joy! 

Get your eyes off the world’s bad news, and keep your eyes firmly on the Good News that only Jesus has made a reality! 

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Sanctuary Needed

Why is it that a bad morning at school follows you and becomes a bad afternoon at home?

Why is that a bad day at work follows you and becomes a bad evening at home?

We all have a tendency to hang on to things. But the problem is we end up taking out our problems on those who didn’t create the problem. In other words, our family takes the heat from us because we know they will still love us, even after we unload on them. So we make our problem their problem.

Yes, we all need someone to listen to us vent when we’ve had a bad day, or we’ve been snubbed by someone, or we’ve gotten an after-school detention, or we’ve been chewed out by the boss. But venting is different from transferring. Venting is when we express our hurts to someone who loves us; transferring is when we take out our hurts on someone who loves us.

Dr. Richard Dobbins gave some wise counsel on how to avoid doing this:

“Develop the mental and spiritual ability to put space between your workplace [or school] and your home life. Treat your home life like a sanctuary. Don’t bring the feelings created by being treated unfairly in the workplace [or school] home with you.”

Maybe this will help you. Here’s what I do: I have created a boundary line (in my case it’s a road) over which bad attitudes created during the day cannot cross. As I approach home I remind myself that my family was not who gave me trouble, so I’m not going to bring my trouble home to them. If I need to, I’ll stop my car and sit for a few minutes before I cross that boundary, just to make sure my attitude is right before I cross that boundary line.

Where’s your boundary? Where can you make some space, so that your home becomes (and remains) a sanctuary?

Spread It Out

What do you do when you get bad news? Scientists know that when we hear bad news, our stress hormone cortisol immediately surges into our bloodstream. This hormone unleashes a bunch of other things in our bodies: blood pressure goes up, heart rate increases, pupils dilate, sugar stores are released. In other words, your body prepares for action.

What about your brain? What does it do? Immediately your brain starts searching for a way to cope with the stress of the bad news. And the typical response is to return to well-worn pathways. In other words, do what I’ve always done before.

So perhaps the question is better stated: What have you done before when you got bad news?

  • Did you sulk?
  • Did you cry or get angry?
  • Did you get paralyzed, not knowing what to do?
  • Did you call a friend?
  • Did you just shake your head and try to ignore it?
  • Did you spread it out before God?

Huh? Judah’s King Hezekiah got some very bad news from a very mean general named Sennacherib. What did he do? He did what he had done before…

Hezekiah received the letter from the messengers and read it. Then he went up to the temple of the LORD and spread it out before the LORD…. “Give ear, LORD, and hear; open Your eyes, LORD, and see; listen to the words Sennacherib has sent to ridicule the living God.”

Hezekiah had the same physiological and psychological responses that you and I would have when facing such a huge threat. But his first response was his well-worn response. He did what he had always done before with bad news: he spread it out before the Lord.

We can start making a new pathway for our brain to follow. Instead of fight-or-flight, or ignoring, or paralysis, or calling a friend—take it to God and spread it out there. He knows your situation better than anyone else and He wants to help you.

Start making new neural pathways in your brain today by taking everything to God—even the so-called “little” things—so that when the really bad news comes, your brain will tell you to do what you always do: spread it out before the Lord.

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