Source of Misery and Lack of Joy
By Elizabeth Yeamans Simrell
Scripture Reading: James Chapter 4
Key Verses: James 4:3; James 4:8; James 4:7
“You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures.”
“Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.”
“Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.”
In a previous post, I mentioned what it means to be “double-minded,” which basically means wavering and undecided. If we don’t know who we follow, we don’t follow anyone, which means we default. When we don’t actively choose God, which He requires, we are not following God. God gives us free will—the choice to follow Him or not—not to choose to follow Him is to default to what comes easily and naturally to us, to sin by following our lustful nature. This is why the verse says to draw near to God if we want God to be near—all we need do is to choose to be near Him, to ask for Him to be near. It’s a choice, but a choice we either make or make by not choosing, which means we have chosen the default choice—the choice against God.
God says to “purify” our hearts, to repent of our sin, to allow Him to wash the slate clean.
We don’t receive because we ask the wrong things—we ask with motives that serve ourselves and not His will. If we are willing to do His will, He says we need only ask and it will be given to us. Motive matters! He knows our hearts.
If we are miserable, we know why, don’t we? These scriptures tell us that the reason we are unhappy and lack joy in our lives is because of the things we choose instead of choosing discipleship of Jesus: the drama of quarrels, following our pleasures, avoiding anything that has to do with God, doing what we think is fun or feels good instead—following our selfish desires.
I know people who are miserable and they stay miserable. They keep searching and trying different things, but going to church?—No, that doesn’t make sense to them, they reason that the church doesn’t have anything to offer, that the church is not relevant, that those who go to church are just hypocrites. For them, the church is “old school”—an outdated model. They follow modern ways. They can’t fathom that there is a God who could heal their misery. Yeah, yeah—they’ve heard all that church stuff. They have never really asked with the right motives. They have never really asked God to draw near in sincere faith. They have chosen against God. They continue to sin against God. If they have ever been sincere in a confession of faith and are not following Jesus in discipleship, they have rejected Him, or have yet to lean on Him in faith instead of following their own desires. Pride, greed, idolatry—these are deadly and those who choose them, choose to be miserable, choose to deny the joy that can be had in this life on earth. If you choose not to follow God, the scripture says, go ahead and “Be miserable and mourn and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning, and your joy to gloom” (James 4:9). “Friendship with the world is hostility toward God” (James 4:4).
It’s clear—If you want to have a life of joy and want to be exalted (v. 10) in the eyes of God, “resist the devil and he will flee from you,” and do the following:
— “Submit to God,” (v.7)
–“Draw near to God,” (v. 8)
–“Purify your hearts,” (v.8)
–“cleanse your hands (from sin),” (v. 8)
— “Humble yourselves.” (v. 10)
He doesn’t promise the road will be easy, but He promises to be there along the journey. He promises to comfort, to heal, to support, to provide when life is at its roughest. And He promises that when we are no longer in this realm where there is suffering and misery, that there will be no more tears, no more suffering, no more pain. In this life we will have some troubles to endure, but it is so much easier when He shares our burdens and helps us forge the way.
Prayer: Dear Lord Jesus, when I am miserable, I know why. I know that you love me and that I can lean on you when life challenges me, that you will help me through anything if I submit to your will. Even death has no hold over me, because you are the victor—may I always remember your sacrifice and embrace your love. Amen.