How to Handle Joy Thieves
By: Lisa Robertson
Look, I get it! I see what you see, and I’m just as frustrated about what is going on in the world as you are. America is in a mess. People are hurting! They are angry! They are grieving! And I get the temptation to live in fear and profound sadness. But I have two questions for anyone whose joy has been stolen: Is this really how you want to live? Do you really want your peace of mind to be controlled by what is going on around you – by your circumstances?
I’m not talking about burying your head in the sand and acting as if nothing is wrong. As a matter of fact, God honors those who are tormented by the evil in the world. Peter said as much in 2 Peter 2:7-8:
Lot saw the evil of his day just like you and I see the immorality of the 21st century, and it tormented him too. We should never be at ease around sin; there should always be a very clear tension between what we know about God’s will and the rebellion against God in our culture. I hope that I never get to the point that I am comfortable with sin. Still, even though Lot was distressed by what he saw, he wasn’t hopeless. He was not in despair.
Lot was confident of two things: He lamented the sin he saw around him, but he was confident that God was in control. One produces sorrow, the other brings peace and joy. Ironically, they can exist side-by-side.
But in order to be joyful in a broken world, I must be aware of one cold, hard fact – Satan wants to steal my joy. I want to share four strategies he uses to convince us that God is not in control. Then I will share three strategies from God’s word that have aided me in living victoriously in a sinful culture.
STRATEGY #1: SATAN WILL ATTACK THOSE YOU CARE ABOUT MOST
With the Holy Spirit giving me strength, I can handle almost (if not everything) Satan throws at me. However, when he attacks those I love the most – my husband, my children, and my grandkids – I often find it more difficult to bear godly fruit, especially JOY! I am often overcome with a paralyzing fear that he will gain a stronghold over them.
STRATEGY #2: SATAN WILL TRY TO DESTROY YOUR LIVLIHOOD
In the current cancel culture climate, it’s not just people who are highly visible on social media and in popular culture who are at risk of being canceled. Everyday people who work regular jobs are finding themselves at odds with corporate cultures that have embraced a godless “woke” philosophy. We’ve heard from several people who’ve lost their jobs simply because they refused to participate in the radical agenda that is driving a large part of American culture today.
STRATEGY #3: SATAN WILL ATTACK YOUR MARRIAGE
What better way to destroy a family – and even an entire nation – than to unravel the union between a husband and wife? As the pressures begin to mount in a marriage (which is natural), the Evil One suggests that perhaps you could have done better. He reminds you that your spouse is flawed and never lets you forget it (all spouses are flawed, by the way – including you). You begin to work harder and longer hours. You go into debt so that you can purchase “distractions” from the fact that your marriage isn’t what you signed up for. You reconnect on social media with an old flame from years ago, forgetting that you had broken off that relationship for a good reason. Somehow, she or he now looks better than you remembered. And once the Devil has almost broken the bond we have with our spouse, he suggests that we’ve gone too far to go back now.
STRATEGY #4: SATAN WILL ATTACK OUR HEALTH
I’m not one of those who throws caution to the wind when it comes to my health and safety. I wash my hands, try to eat healthy foods, and avoid extreme danger. But I don’t want to fear disease and death so much that it robs me of my joy. Satan knows our fear of illness and death. And because he knows that about us, what do you think he does? He constantly reminds us that we are on the brink of extinction. Worse than that, he orchestrates a deadly world-wide pandemic that has killed millions worldwide in order to play upon our fears. The result? He steals our joy!
In light of his attempts to make us joyless, what can we do? If we listen to our Father in heaven, he will equip us with far more powerful strategies to render Satan’s attacks impotent:
STRATEGY #1: KEEP YOUR FOCUS ON JESUS
Two of my favorite passages in the entire Bible are found in Hebrews 3:1 and Hebrews 12:2. One says, “keep your thoughts on Jesus,” and the other says, “keep your eyes on Jesus.” I don’t just focus on him as an effeminate, long-haired man like we see in the paintings from the Renaissance but on the Jesus who was the pioneer, the author, and the perfector of our faith. He endured what the world threw at him for the “joy set before him.” In other words, because he knew that I would need cleansing from my sins before I could approach God, he did the unthinkable – he died for me. When Satan brings his A-game to my mind, I turn to Jesus – I look at him – I fix my thoughts on him. Because of Jesus, I have everything I need.
STRATEGY #2: STAY CONNECTED TO THE REST OF THE “FLOCK!”
There’s strength in numbers. That’s why the Hebrew writer encourages us to be faithful in our fellowship with other committed believers:
When I make the decision to regularly meet with my brothers and sisters, I’m not just punching my church attendance clock. Instead, I am being intentional about plugging into one of my sources of power. Personally, I can’t survive without the support of other people who follow Christ and encourage me to do so too. “Doing life” with others who are also looking for the Lord’s return encourages me to keep my focus on him.
STRATEGY #3: HIDE GOD’S WORD IN YOUR HEART!
At a time when many were turning away from Jesus, he turned to his disciples and asked them if they would leave him too. I love Peter’s response to Jesus’ question:
Where else are we going to go to find words that will bring us joy in a fractured and sin-cursed world? Will we go to the politicians? I think we know the answer to that. I see nothing joyful in the political climate in 2021. Can I rely on human philosophy or popular culture? Would I just construct my own plan for how to live victoriously? This is how most people navigate through live, but I think that we would agree that it usually doesn’t work out well.
Instead of looking at the world around me for answers, I turn to God’s word. I can trust what he says.
Yes, the world is in a mess. But truthfully, it always has been. There may not be much you can do about the direction of culture, but you can do something about the direction of your life. You can live victoriously and joyfully right in the middle of a culture that is in open rebellion against God and his kingdom. Fix your thoughts and eyes on him. Listen to his word. Commit your life to his care and control. Remember, he wants you to be joyful, and he will give joy to you when you trust him to direct your steps. (Galatians 5:22-23)