The enemy of joy

My previous post highlighted the command given to us by the Apostle Paul in Philippians 4:4 to rejoice. But there are times when we find this difficult to do. Why is it difficult and how do we counteract the difficulty?

R. C. Sproul, in his book Can I have Joy in my Life?, rightly points out that the great enemy of joy is anxiety. In support of this statement, he points out that two verses after the command to be joyful Paul writes about anxiety:

Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:6-7 (CSB)

(c) Can Stock Photo / ivelinradkov

There are two tools Paul gives is for counteracting anxiety in our lives.

The first tool is thanksgiving. It dawns on me that it is difficult to be thankful and anxious at the same time. Being anxious stems from a lack of confidence that things will work out properly. For the Christian, we claim that God has everything under control, but our worry is an indication that we don’t really believe this, or at least, we don’t believe it enough to be fully trusting.

It seems to me that if I am working at finding things for which I can be thankful, it will go a long way toward displacing my doubts about how things will work out.

The second tool is petition. Jesus taught us to ask for our daily bread (Matthew 6:11) so we should have no scruples against being honest with God about our concerns and our needs.

The problem is that I let God know about my concerns and my needs while continuing to worry about whether or not they will be met. This again belies my claim to complete faith in God. I have very imperfect faith which is not strong enough to overcome my anxiety.

It boils down to a choice. I can choose to believe that when I give the problem to God, he will address it. I can choose to be thankful for the blessings I have received and remain in thanksgiving even when I have no evidence that my current concern has been addressed.

I know that I cannot muster up more faith, but I can choose to act on the faith that I already possess. The choice is mine (and yours).