Jesus said, “Your joy no man takes from you.” (John 16:22) But we sure don’t feel that way all the time, do we? Happiness and joy can often seem pretty elusive. Is it confession time here? Maybe. I often have to pray against sadness. It just seems to spring up in me like some besetting sin, some old weed that keeps coming back. But I have learned by years of experiences that I can’t give place to it in the same way that the verse says, “Neither give place to the Devil.” (Ephesians 4:27)
Many would say, “But Mark, it’s not a sin to be sad! Sadness is just part of life, we’re all sad sometimes.”
Maybe so. The problem is, for someone who is trying to maintain a relationship with the Lord and to sort of keep himself in proper spiritual shape, these little things cannot be allowed to come into my mind and consciousness. There’s an obscure verse that says, “The little foxes spoil the vines”. (Song of Solomon 2:15) And the funny thing is that actually and truly, we’ve had a family of foxes in our neighborhood off and on for the last weeks. Yesterday there were three “teenager” foxes in our backyard and I told my mom about that verse, “the little foxes spoil the vines” but she didn’t understand it.
So I told her it was applied as meaning those “little sins”, things that may not seem like such a big deal. Like tolerating a little sadness to come, sit down beside you in your heart and strike up a conversation. It doesn’t seem so bad at first. There seem to be a few things to be sad about. This happened and that happened and this didn’t work out and someone said something I didn’t like.
But maybe it’s from years of experience, I’ve just come to know that this kind of thing has to be recognized and resisted just as much as if someone offered me drugs. The little foxes spoil the vines. And the rest of the verse says, “For our vines have tender grapes”. (Song of Solomon 2:15) The vines of our lives in this sense are tender. Our relationship with the Lord in some ways is tender, if it is fine tuned and is the way He wants it. And that can make it so that we can have a close relationship with Him. We can hear His voice, we are in line for His blessings, we are seeking to do His will, we are looking to experience Him each day, loving Him, loving others and pretty much abandoned to the freedom and joy of our life in Him.
But maybe it’s like the picture of the Holy Spirit being like a dove; it can be easily shooed away. And one way that can happen is by allowing ourselves to bend to moods and emotions that are not the ones He wants us to have.
There are just oodles of places in the Bible that admonish us about the benefits of cultivating a happy spirit along with warnings against falling prey to sadness and depression. “A merry heart does good like a medicine…” (Proverbs 17:22) “The joy of the Lord is your strength.”(Nehemiah 8:10b) “If you know these things, happy are you if you do them.” (John 13:17)
So the same way a person with a problem with alcohol or cigarettes can’t allow themselves to have even one smoke, some of us need to treat sadness with the same intolerance. It’s like the verse, “When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord will raise up a standard against him.” (Isiah 59:19b) That’s the kind of militant spirit and attitude we need to have if we want to “abide under the shadow of the Almighty” (Psalm 91:1), or as Jesus said, to “abide in the Vine”. (John 15:4)
We just have to fight it. We have to pray, we have to quote Scriptures, claiming the promises of God that He will give us joy and peace and happiness. We have to recognize that it’s not some little innocent thing that we deserve and isn’t so bad. We don’t deserve it because we are forgiven and are aiming to walk in the light. And it is bad because it’s one of those little things that seem so innocent. But the next thing you know, you are totally and utterly defeated, bummed out, ready to give up as you are flooded with more and bigger negative thoughts about yourself, others, God or whatever.
“Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life“. (I Timothy 6:10) “Let us lay aside every weight, and the sins that so easily beset us.” (Hebrews 12:2) “I will set no wicked thing before my eyes (like “innocent” sadness), I hate the work of them that turn aside (people or spirits who would cause you to come down from the wall of His will and joy) it shall not cleave unto me.” (Psalm 101:3) Wow. What a statement. It’s a picture of these things almost being like some kind of evil, sticky chewing gum that wants to “cleave unto me”, wants to stick to you. Don’t let it happen. Claim His happiness and joy and walk and live in it today and every day. “Happy is that people that is in such a case, yea happy is that people, whose God is the Lord.” (Psalms 144:15)