It can seem almost wrong to say that we should have joy in 2020. This year has been a nonstop slog of hardship. And yet, in the previous post we learned that God is and always will be actively involved in the world. As a result, it makes perfect sense how the Teacher concludes this section of Ecclesiastes 8. Look at verse 15.
Dorsey translates it this way: “So I recommend the enjoyment of life. The best thing a person can do in this life is to eat and drink and be joyful. Let joy accompany him in his work all the days of life that God has given him to live in this world.”
Isn’t that wonderful? Despite the fact that the Teacher has seen injustice, he recommends joy. Why? Because God is still and always will be God, victorious in the end, and deeply involved in the here and now. So let us rejoice!
Election didn’t turn out how you hoped? Rejoice that the one true King Jesus has been, is, and always will be on the throne that one throne that always matters most.
Pandemic have you angry? Rejoice that God is our God, and he is faithful, even in the midst of a global health crisis.
Injustice have you upset? Work to right the injustice, and rejoice in the victory we have in Jesus.
Natural disasters have you scratching your head about what this world is coming to? Work joyfully to help those suffering through loss, giving cheerfully and generously to causes supporting recovery.
Let joy accompany you all the days of your life. This is not saying that you need to be happy about the negative and painful things in the world. It does not mean that you don’t feel hurt, upset or disappointed, but joy in the Lord is your deep and strong foundation. Joy means that your trust in God, in the middle of the pain, moves you to have hope, to have a positive outlook.
Remember the student I told you about in the first post? When I graded her paper, you know how I responded: “Awesome paper.” Here’s why. She finished by saying something that was very meaningful:
“It’s easy to think about how much better our situation would be if this pandemic had never happened, making our lives feel unimportant and mundane. According to Christ, the little things that we’re doing are the most important of all. The sacrifices that we are making during this time are serving others to make their lives better, just like He did for us. Reading this passage in Mark really helped me look at the current events going on with this pandemic in a different perspective, and I really think reading the Gospel of Mark and its message of serving others could be helpful for other believers during these difficult times.”
Do you hear the joy in that? A Christ-focused life can experience joy in the midst of pain. Pain in relationships, pain from injustices, pain at the workplace, pain in dealing with personal struggles, etc. There is a deep foundation of joy that is available in the midst of great difficulty, when we have a God-focused mindset that wants to serve sacrificially like Jesus did.
Therefore I would recommend that you start like the Teacher in Ecclesiastes starts, by expressing your pain to God. Use the psalms of lament. Those are the psalms that are basically bitter complaints to God, sometimes even accusing God of not doing the job that God is supposed to do. They are bold! But God wants you to come to him with your pain and your frustration, even if it is about him, questioning, “How long, O Lord, will you hide your face from me?” Yes, you can say that to him, and I think you should. Here’s a guided lament you can use.
Then move on to the remembrance of who God is, just as the Teacher does. His faithfulness in the past, he promises kept, his provision. His amazing love and forgiveness in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. His Spirit who lives in us and wants to fill us with his love. Let that truth fill you with joy!
Finally, serve the Lord joyfully. How are you serving? Work to right injustice, with joy. Work to help others, with joy. Lift up the hurting. Joyfully tell the good news of hope in Jesus, the one who brings new life, who makes all things new. Joyfully make disciples.