Have you ever experienced times when you were excited and filled with anticipation, but after it was over the expectation did not live up to the hype?
It's nothing to worry about because we all have our share of disappointments as this is just a normal part of life. Sometimes we even become sad and restless when life is going good, which may seem strange, but we were never intended to live only by our emotions. When it comes to our spiritual life, the Bible says the joy of the Lord is our strength.
This is an internal confidence and peace we can enjoy no matter what we are going through. However, our joy has a tendency to leak out and needs to be refilled constantly, which also explains how easily we can fall away from God and become cold and irritable. If we feel like a Grinch and looking for someone to blame, we can always point to the many daily distractions we encounter. Focusing too much attention on the things of Earth while ignoring God is a sure way to become discouraged.
Christians are spiritually connected to their Creator and have undergone a miraculous transformation, but this does not mean they are always walking with him or even aware of his presence. In the old life, we were led by our feelings without any respect or concern with God, his Word or his people. But when a person surrenders their life to God, the idea is for everything to change, including laying down their independence and embracing a lifestyle of trusting and obeying God's voice. This new identity includes following his decisions and letting go of the things of Earth that desire to capture our thoughts and devotion. When any of us fail to have our priorities in the right place, we automatically become detached from our joyful excitement, and this explains why many are miserable.
No matter how wealthy or healthy we are, this temporal realm is hardly a continuous mountaintop experience. Actually, our existence here on Earth was never intended to be a perfect paradise, because heaven is an eternal dwelling place reserved for God, his angels and his people. It may not be popular, but we will all have our share of valleys in this life, as they are meant to teach us valuable lessons. By the way, the fear and darkness of the valley does not matter as long as we are holding tightly to his hand. The good news is these sad and difficult places were only designed to be temporary situations. God wants us to learn how to be an overcomer by allowing him to open our eyes and ears so that we can know what he wants us to do.
Since we all have free will, we have the choice to do whatever we set our mind to, and even Christians can make terrible decisions if this is what they really want. Jesus has always realized how easy it is for humans to wander away from him, as he tells the story in Matthew 18 about the sheep that becomes separated from the flock. Christ represents the shepherd and says the good shepherd leaves the 99 to go search for the one that is missing.
How often do we consider that God loves us so much that he is constantly trying to rescue the ones who have lost their way? How easy it is for any of us to become untied from the harbor like a small sailing vessel that is pulled by the strong currents out into the open sea. This reminds me of the old hymn that warns, "You're drifting too far from the shore."
Many times when we are busy with shopping and entertaining, we can fail to recognize why we feel a sense of emptiness and loneliness. Even when we are surrounded by family and friends and everything seems fine on the outside, we can experience a loss of peace and contentment on the inside as if something deep down in our soul is missing. This "something" is our personal relationship with God that we have neglected.
As we approach one of the most hectic and stressful times of the year, let us take some quiet time to ourself and think about what is truly important. Jesus said in Matthew 11:28, "Come unto me all of you that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest."
William F. Holland Jr. is a minister and chaplain based in Nicholasville, Kentucky. Read more at billyhollandministries.com.