Jesus invites us in scripture to ask, to seek in prayer,
to knock and it shall be opened. He promises in John 16: "Anything
you ask for in My name...Ask and you shall receive so your joy will
Our Redeemer loves us and urges us to seek fulfillment of our requests
because he wants us to be joyful. How joyful is it to be of and with
and in Jesus? Ask the fulfilled Christian, whose life is committed
to Jesus and in whose life Jesus calls the shots by bending our will
in His direction.
Have you ever noticed the distinguishable hallmarks of a bona fide
Christian, and not just a part-time Sunday Christian, for an hour,
mutely? One characteristic is affection and concern for others. It
does not flow on and off as a matter of conscious will to different
individuals in varying situations.
Moreover, mature Christians don't accept defeat from life's hard knocks.
They bounce back. They see the bright side. The rounded Christian
laughs a lot, because Jesus is in control.
In-love Christians don't go around with doleful, hang-dog expressions,
weighted down by sin-induced drug and alcohol overloads. They are
aware of their sins but through faith, repentance the atoning stripes
of Jesus they know they are healed. The guilt of a shadowy past has
melted away. They are exuberant people in the Lord who have fun together.
As the song goes, "You know they are Christians by their love."
We can all be affected and turned off by gloomy weather and events
that trigger emotions. Also by people who are downers, bogged down
by defeat, real or imagined. Ecclesiastes 3 tell us there is a time
"for tears, a time for laughter, a time for mourning and a time
for dancing." But the graybeards have time and inclination for
only the tears and mourning.
In his book, "Overflowing Life," biologist and Christian
writer Robert Frost observes, "Some individuals are so bound
they have almost lost their will to the power of the Enemy. God can
set them free by the power of faith and the authority of Jesus' name.
Such a release, however, can be maintained only if they choose to
remain free. Some individuals enjoy the attention and pity which their
condition evokes from others and don't really want to be set free!"
It is true that that deep-seated mental problems, such as clinical
depression, definitely require the attention of experts in psychiatric
and medical fields, to prescribe solutions through counseling and
However, there many individuals who are not afflicted with such serious
ailments and bury themselves in darker views of life.
Father George Maloney, at an Atlantic City Catholic workshop, had
insights on some--not all-- of the nuns he had had encountered in
monasteries where he had heard confessions and celebrated masses.
They had given their lives to the Lord but by every appearance they
had been unable to find contentment. At least it was not visible in
their woeful faces. Father Maloney described people who wallow in
gloom as "sad sacks."
Too often we encounter such individuals and indeed they do invoke
the pity of onlookers. Virtually everything in life is a burden. They
don't know how to laugh. They don't know how to go about unveiling
themselves to either God or fellows.
Of course, sad countenances can be observed at church services, too,
perhaps above a Roman collar, or a church elder, whose dark business
suit is a perfect metaphor for the mood the face expresses. (The impression
conveyed in some churches is that the somber gray-to-black suits preferred
for elders and pastors infers a funereal, rather than joyful, aura)
Mournful attitudes usually mirror people who are crushed and defeated
by life, oblivious to the victory they can have in Christ, refusing
or lacking enough faith to claim victory. They need to call upon the
power of God to switch their lives to the positive!
Contrast those beaten-up folks with those baptized and born-again
by the Great Transformer, the Holy Spirit. The dramatic result: they
are abundantly blessed with a peace that can flow like a river out
into the parched desert, changing and setting free that captive old
self from the insidious bondage of Satan.
And what results from the flowing of this great river? You get that
"joy, joy, joy, joy down in your heart!" as the song says.
All we need to is ask for it in prayer, have faith in God and let
the Holy Spirit unleash Himself in you!
It was literally shocking for me years ago to attend my first charismatic
event, a mass at St. Agnes church in Arlington, Virginia. People,
including nuns with habits swirling, were dancing in church aisles,
no less, like King David on a road into Jerusalem.
Later, the performance was duplicated on a massive scale at a charismatic
conference in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Not only nuns but priests
joined lay people in dancing and singing in abandon before thousands
of hand-clapping, enthusiastic, loudly-singing Christians raising
a joyful noise unto the Lord. New wine in new bottles, maybe slightly
intoxicated in emotion and God's love, but worshiping like David.
I have witnessed similar, if not quite the same level of enthusiasm,
in Protestant churches services. One was in a church in which a leader
described his Presbyterians as people who "clap internally."
Some retain that approach to worship in that particular church, but
most celebrate Sunday services with increasing exuberance in a mix
of contemporary Christian music mixed in with centuries-old hymns
to mollify conservative folks.
Isn't it possible to have fun and be holy at the same time? The Lord
is not calling us to parade around with long faces because we are
trying to be righteous, fasting or face trials; in fact, just the
opposite. We needn't don a veneer of negativism to God or those in
the crossroads of our existence. We do need to allow the Lord and
His Holy Spirit to boost us out of any lingering compulsion for darkness,
sadness, depression or oppression as the case may be.
King David in Psalm 40: 2-4 provides this guidepost:
"He set my feet on a rock
"And gave me a new place to stand.
"He put a new song in my mouth,
"A hymn of praise to our God. . .
"Blessed is the man
"Who makes the Lord his trust."
We don't have to accept those old ways: the tear-streaked faces;
the loneliness, beaten into the dust by life. Jesus came to wipe
away the tears, to heal the sick and the lame, and to chase away
the Devil forever. He is the most powerful force for good in the
universe. He made a world for us to enjoy and have dominion over
in concert with God.
The formula is to turn to Jesus, seek Him more and more, and praise
Him and testify to the changes experienced in our lives. We can
all take advantage of the prayers of our brothers and sisters and
our own. We can open and unfold like beautiful flowers on the vine
of Jesus under the loving care of the Father, our Divine Gardener.
Persist in asking our Mighty God for help, even when immediate results
are not visible with human eyes or senses. Even when we hurt, deep
down, we can try to set aside some moments to praise Him, for He
will never allow a heavier cross than we can bear, according to
scripture. Jesus promised His yoke would be sweet and His burden
light, and He would share our load.
Christian fellowship is key for it mingles people who are free;
who are having a great time in life because they are on a solid
foundation with God that the storms of human existence cannot splinter.
Some are tasting already a bit of heaven right here on earth because
of their special ties to Jesus. They adhere to His great commandment
to love God and "Love each other as I have loved you."
They are in-filled with buoyant Christian joy.
One road to brightening our days is reflection on the beauty of
the world God has created for us, His children. We are not expected
to ignore the magnificence of His creations and totally separate
ourselves from the world, which is impossible anyway.
Read Genesis and note how an infinite God created the world and
found that it was "very good," full as it is of magnificence
and great mystery that finite man continues to try to fathom.
And if that doesn't move you, check out for inspiration the bright,
shining faces of children, with their captivating personalities,
boundless energy and promise and minds that absorb new marvels daily.
Although some of us can't be young again, we can pursue the childlike
awe and fascination with the universe and people around us who scripture
says are made to the "image and likeness of God."