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Biblical, battle-tested, real-life help for "living by faith in the Son of God" (Galatians 2:20). — Steve Fuller

A Reader Asks: “What If I’ve Never Had Joy In Christ?” (Part Two)

No Joy from Everystockphoto by paleontour

Recently I wrote that we don’t need to fear trials, because God promises that every trial will bring us more joy in Jesus Christ.

But a reader responded with a crucial question — “How does this help if I’ve never experienced joy in Christ?”

I am sure that others have the same struggle.  So I thought I’d answer this question here, by sharing seven questions I ask myself when I find that I have no joy in Christ.

I covered the first two questions in the previous post (click here to see it).  Today I’ll cover the rest.

Am I seeking joy in Christ with a heart of repentance?

This does not mean we have conquered every sin.  But it means we are not stubbornly clinging to sin.  It means we are confessing and turning our hearts from all known sin (1 John 1:9).  [Put your cursor over the references and the verse will appear.]

[Put your cursor over the references and the verses will appear.] – See more at: http://livingbyfaithblog.com/2013/08/27/a-reader-asks-what-if-ive-never-had-joy-in-christ/#sthash.IOcPHain.dpuf
[Put your cursor over the references and the verses will appear.] – See more at: http://livingbyfaithblog.com/2013/08/27/a-reader-asks-what-if-ive-never-had-joy-in-christ/#sthash.IOcPHain.dpuf

This is crucial, because God promises joy to those who trust Christ (John 6:35; John 7:38; 1Peter 1:8).  But if I’m stubbornly clinging to sin, then I’m not trusting Christ, because I’m trusting sin, and not Christ, as my all-satisfying Treasure (Jer 2:12-13).

I remember a time when, to my shame, my greatest excitement was money.  At the same time, I was discouraged that I did not have more joy in Christ.  But it was not until I turned my heart from money to Christ, that I once again experienced times of great joy in Him.

To help with this I will often pray over verses like Isaiah 1:15; Acts 2:38; Joel 2:12-13; 2 Corinthians 6:17-18.

Am I seeking joy in Christ with humble trust in God’s will?

If I am angry with God about trials in my life, or am grumbling to God about what He has or hasn’t done, then I’m not trusting Him.

And if I’m not trusting Him, then I’m proud — because I think I’m wiser than God.  But Peter says God opposes the proud, and gives grace only to the humble (1Pet 5:5).  So to receive the grace of joy in Christ, I must humbly trust God’s will.

In Psalm 73, Asaph says he was bitter that the wicked prospered while he suffered (Psalm 73:3, 13-14).  But once he saw that God would judge the wicked (Psalm 73:18), and that God would be his all-satisfying portion forever (Psalm 73:26,28), he was transformed — so filled with joy in God that he desired nothing on earth (Psalm 73:25).

To strengthen humble trust I have found it helpful to pray over passages like Proverbs 3:5-6; Daniel 4:37; Job 1:21; and Job 2:10.

Am I seeking joy in Christ with prayer?

Sometimes the reason God does not give us something is because we have not asked Him for it (James 4:2).

This might sound obvious, but how often do I find myself discouraged about something that I have not brought before the Father in earnest prayer?  (Much too often.)

So pray and ask God to give you times where you experience great joy in beholding Jesus Christ.  To help with this I use passages like Psalm 86:4-5; Psalm 51:12; John 17:13; Psalm 43:3-4.

Am I seeking joy in Christ through the Scriptures?

Joy in Christ is given by the supernatural work of the Spirit, as He enlightens the eyes of our hearts to see and feel Jesus’ glory (Ephesians 1:18).  And God gives this work of the Spirit as we hear His Word with faith —

Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith?  Galatians 3:5

So joy in Christ is not found by closing our eyes, emptying our minds, and asking God to make Jesus real to us.  Joy in Christ is found as we prayerfully meditate on God’s Word, and by the Spirit’s work see and feel the truth of God’s Word.  We meet Jesus Christ most powerfully in the truth of God’s Word.

So pray earnestly over verses describing the glory of Christ, asking the Spirit to help you see and feel the glory of Christ.  Here are some Scriptures that recently have been helpful for me — Hebrews 1:3-4; John 1:14; John 20:30-31; Luke 19:41-42; John 17:21-23.

Am I seeking joy in Christ persistently?

God promises that everyone who comes to Christ with faith will have their hearts filled with joy in Him.  But God also says there are times when He temporarily withholds this joy from us.

We can see this in the book of Psalms, which shows godly people who are patiently waiting for God to satisfy them in Himself (Psalm 13:1-2; Psalm 40:1-3; Psalm 42:1-3; Psalm 43:1-5).

These delays are part of God’s love for us, since they deepen our hunger for joy in Christ, and give us all the more pleasure when we experience joy in Christ.

So humbly trust the Father’s timing.  And keep seeking Christ patiently and persistently, with prayer and meditation on God’s Word.  He will, in His perfect time, fill you with the joy of beholding Him.

That’s what David experienced —

I waited patiently for the Lord;
he inclined to me and heard my cry.
He drew me up from the pit of destruction,
out of the miry bog,
and set my feet upon a rock,
making my footsteps secure.
He put a new song in my mouth,
a song of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear,
and put their trust in the Lord. 
(Psalm 40:1-3)

In Christ,

Steve Fuller

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Category: Finding Peace and Joy

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15 Responses

  1. Paul Walton says:

    “What if I NEVER had joy in Christ?”
    I truly question whether a person can never experienced a heart satisfaction (joy) of some level, after turning away from everything else, and truly seeking Christ with all their heart, soul, and mind.

    Is it possible that over time that a person can forget the heart satisfaction they experienced when they first began their journey?

    To have NEVER experienced any level of joy in knowing your sins have been forgiven, and also having been given a new nature, and a new heart, and to know the One who has given you eternal Life, and all because of grace, to NEVER to know joy in this PERSON, something is missing from the equation.

    • Steve Fuller says:

      Good questions, Paul. Part of my hope is that if there is something missing in the equation, the questions in this blog post would bring what’s missing to light.

      • Paul Walton says:

        Steve,

        By the way it will be nice to have you back from your vacation, it will great to see you this Sunday. As I was thinking about someone passing from death and coming alive through the gracious act of salvation, it truly is a “supernatural” experience, there should be some level of emotion in connection to it.

        I agree that the questions you bring up would certainly cause someone to examine their understanding of what exactly our joy of truly trusting Christ means to an individual. As always you did a great job of dissecting the working out of how to seek joy when we aren’t feeling it.

        I know your post would have helped me many years ago, when I was at a low point in my joy in the Lord, I pray this person is sincerely taking to heart what you have shared.

        In Christ,
        Paul

  2. Lothars Sohn says:

    I’ve one advice for this struggling Christian:

    begin viewing God as a perfect being and not as a capricious deity commanding soldiers to kill babies and pregnant women.

    View God as being love, and His wrath as flowing from His love.

    You won’t fail to realize He is really perfect :=)

    Kind regards from continental Europe.

    Lothars Sohn – Lothar’s son

    http://lotharlorraine.wordpress.com

    • Steve Fuller says:

      Hi Lothar,

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

      I agree that the key is seeing God in all His perfections as displayed in God’s Word.

      But I’m a little puzzled about your statement about God. You are completely right that He is not a capricious deity. Everything He does is perfectly good, right, and wise.

      But in the Old Testament He did bring judgment upon cities that had sinned grievously against Him, and in some cases this did involve Israel killing everyone in the city, including women and children. But this was not capricious. It was an expression of holy judgment against sin, much like Noah’s flood.

      Maybe I’m misunderstanding what you are saying. But I thought I’d mention it.

      In Christ,

      Steve Fuller

  3. Louise says:

    There was a time when I might have said I’d had no joy in Christ – at least for many years. In my case, it was because I was very angry with God, although I would not admit it if you had asked me. I wanted to “feel good” which is how I would have described joy, but I didn’t want to bow to the will of a God who also allows a lot of suffering in this world.

    Joy is a promise, so we know it absolutely will come true – like all God’s promises. However, everyone is waiting for the complete fulfillment of Scripture when we see Him face to face. None of us knows “the fulness of God” yet. So to the one who knows they believe in Christ but does not feel joy, I would say, try all Steve’s fantastic suggestions, but be assured that in the end, you will have it. It’s coming. That’s a promise.

  4. Roy says:

    Please believe me, I am trying so hard to beleve, I want to believe.I am really struggling though. Louise is saying be assured and I would love to be assured but I am not. How do I be what I am not? “In the end” is not helping me here in the middle. Paul sounds Incredulous that someone could experience being forgiven and not be joyfull. Your probably right Paul, the problem is I have not EXPERIENCED forgiveness. I have read about it, prayed and asked for it and tried to believe I have recieved it. Likewise, I have never EXPERIENCED receiving a new heart or a new nature. I have never even met, much less known, the one who has given me salvation. Lothar says view God this way but the problem is I can’t view God at all. Each of you begins with an asumption that something has already taken place that has not happened. Where is the starting point? Steve starts, usualy, with the words” turn your heart”. How do I do that? What does that look like? Is that not what I am doing now by asking you folks these questions and trying to understand. Now, may I ask, what is joy? In this language and culture joy does mean happiness if that’s not what were talking about then isn’t it misleading to use that word? If you mean having calm, peaceful confidence in God shouldn’t we say that?
    I guess my number one question is “where do I start?”
    I’m afraid of Hell but I don’t feel very guilty so forgiveness doesn’t have much impact. It has always seemed like a technicality that stood in the way of being blessed or protected by God. Should I pray for contrition, conviction, or repentance?
    By now you probably recognize that unlike Louise I am not afraid to say it, I am compelled to be completely real and transparent. Because I am desperate. I am terrified of what life in this world is going to do to my children. I am terrified of what is coming for our country and I am just as terrified about the misery that God will allow into my life. I have EXPERIENCED a great deal of it already and have found no comfort in anything but self medicating in one way or another which always equals sin. Help if you can. I am very greatful for your responses and your prayers

    • Paul Walton says:

      Roy,

      I’m praying this verse below for you, we all need a heart transplant.
      ” May the Lord your God circumcise (change) your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, that you may live.” – Deuteronomy 30:6

      If we truly have just a shred of a desire of a desire to want to be changed, God will certainly do it, he has already done the hardest thing, He has sent His One and only Son to die for sinners like us.
      “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” Romans 8:32

    • Steve Fuller says:

      Hi Roy,

      I am thankful that you are persevering in your quest. And I’m glad Paul’s comments are encouraging to you — they are right on the money.

      Let me say more about “turning your heart.” What I mean is something like “directing your attention,” or “focusing your thoughts” on something.

      And Jesus promises that if we will come to Him and believe in Him, we will, in His perfect time, meet Him in an experiential way so we KNOW and FEEL Him satisfying all our heart hungers and thirsts and assuring us that we are forgiven.

      I see this taught in John 6:35, and also in John 4:13-14; John 7:37-38; Romans 8:16; Galatians 3:5.

      So what I do is open my Bible to places where Jesus is described or where I read promises He will do for me that I need.

      Then I will prayerfully turn my attention to those Scriptures, and read those Scriptures, ask God to strengthen my faith in those Scriptures, ask God to help me understand those Scriptures, and seek to trust Jesus to fulfill those Scriptures.

      For example, Jesus promises to forgive our sin (1 John 1:9; Mark 2:5), to change our hearts (Luke 18:27), to strengthen our faith (Mark 9:24; Romans 10:17), to satisfy us in Himself (John 6:35; John 4:13-14; John 7:37-38).

      It’s important to come humbly, confessing known sin, and all the other ways I mentioned in the above blog posts.

      I am praying for you, Roy.

      Steve Fuller

  5. Roy says:

    Thank you Paul,
    when I first read the posts on this site something in me recognized hope.I still have not quite put my finger on it though.The Prayer of Paul in Ephesians 3, to know the Love of God, might help also. I also think that there are probably a lot more people like me except they are too embarrassed to say it.

    • Kim says:

      Roy, I just wanted to tell you that i share your pain. I have asked God for a new heart and it is certainly not happening overnight. He seems to be silent on those areas that I have been asking His deliverance for or perhaps He has started His work and I just don’t see it. However, God is working in my life in areas which I never thought was a problem. It is quite encouraging, knowing that God is still with me. I guess the key thing for me here is to persevere and wait upon Him. Waiting is truly painful but it is good heart exercise as it acknowledges God’s sovereignty and control over our lives. It is not easy and I am not even 2% of the journey. Like you, I am also trying to find a point to start and I think Steve’s blog on What If I’ve Never Had Joy in Christ has given me hope even in the midst of my struggle with sin.

      There’s one thing that I would like to ask Steve, if I am struggling with jealousy and pride, and I am praying over it but such evil desires stubbornly remain, does this mean that I have not sincerely repented? I really don’t know if I am secretly loving these sins, but I really do try to ward them off by praying, and to some extent applying God’s word. I am so afraid that my sorrows over my sins are not godly sorrows but worldly sorrows (due to chastisement) that only leads to death. I am so afraid that God has hardened my heart to the extent that I cannot repent. Any words of comfort for a struggling sinner like me?

      • Steve Fuller says:

        Hi Kim,

        Thank you for your encouraging words to Roy.

        And thank you for raising such an important question. Here are my thoughts —

        The most crucial step for battling jealousy and pride are to turn to Jesus Christ just as you are, and trust him to welcome you, forgive you, change you, and satisfy you.

        Confess your sins of jealousy and pride, and ask him to forgive you through his death on the Cross. Ask him to increase the work of the Holy Spirit in your heart — to make the beauty and glory of Christ so real to you that your heart is completely satisfied, and you son’t need what you are jealous and proud about.

        Then pray over Scriptures describing who Jesus Christ is, and what he promises to do for you — until you feel your faith and love grow, and your heart is filled with joy in him.

        As you are turning to Christ and trusting him, you can be sure you are saved, because only saved people turn to Jesus and trust him.

        You are wondering if your sorrow is just worldly sorrow. Again, godly sorrow will be given to you as you turn to Jesus and trust him. Ask him to show you his love so clearly that your heart is broken for your sin. And then pray over passages about his love until you feel the Holy Spirit doing this in you. He will surely do it.

        I hope this helps. Let me know how you are doing —

        In Christ,

        Steve Fuller

  6. Roy says:

    I will start with these scriptures and pray them and try my best, once again, to believe, trust, and surrender.

    • Paul Walton says:

      Roy,

      You are the right web site my friend, keep reading Steve’s blog, his insights to scripture will definitely bring light to them for you.

      The only thing God requires of us is to admit we are helpless sinners in need of His mercy, nothing more. Jesus taught that all who are weak in Spirit shall be comforted, and all that thirst for Life shall be satisfied.

      Keep trusting Him.

      “And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying:

      “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

      “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”- Matt.5:2-4

      Nothing can separate us from the love of God, believe it.

      “… nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:39

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