Where do I find joy in a time like this?

We're in a grim time of chilling statistics and lockdown — a glass of wine helps, but joy comes from the emotional buoyancy of a heavenly perspective.

Where do I find joy in a time like this?
There's often a joyful sound coming from the Unicorn Inn, Weobley (image: Ian Greig)

Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit.
Ephesians 5:18 NIV

AT A GRIM time of chilling statistics, winter weather and news reports containing the words “out of control”, it’s important for all of us to know how to maintain emotional buoyancy.

An older generation of Christians were quite strict and legalistic, and inclined to associate faith with abstinence. In a village church I pastored, I remember older members’ pride in having ‘taken the pledge’ not to drink alcohol.

I have also met many who grew up harbouring resentments for the lack of fun and restrictions on entertainment which religiously-strict parents considered ‘worldly’.

Is following Jesus about rules, and about abstinence?

Jesus didn’t say so. He entered into the spirit of the party in His first miracle, which was a wedding in Cana, a few miles from his home town (John 2:1-12). To the embarrassment of the hosts, the supply of wine was running out too quickly. You probably remember how Jesus had the servants fill stone jars with water, which then turned out to contain better wine than they had enjoyed earlier.

This was not the action of a Saviour who disapproved of what everyone at that time drank — the healthy alternative to less-than-pure water.

But for us to rely on drinking alcohol as an emotional prop is a false security. To rely on anything other than God is a security which will, at some point, let us down. And to rely on rules and restrictions to keep us on the straight and narrow is to fail — ever been caught by a speed camera? And if we impose it on others, it invites rebellion, a natural reaction to something we find unjustly oppressive.

What Jesus gives us is a new heart, reborn with a new and powerful spiritual dimension. A new heart gives us a new outlook — what seems impossible to man, is not impossible for God.

Knowing that we belong to God, who loves us, and that He can, where we can't, changes us from feeling that we are sinking and perishing, to being able to float and swim. That is the power of joy and it comes by allowing God's Spirit to fill us and influence us..

He opens our spiritually blind eyes to see what we couldn't see before, a new perspective, and that changes our heart. What seemed hopeless, from our restricted viewpoint, now becomes hope-full when we join Jesus in seeing it the way He sees it.

God did not create us to blindly follow rules, but for freedom and joy in Him as He teaches us to respond to His leading and make good judgments.

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