Is it true that obedience to God always leads to joy?

(Julia Bracewell) #1

Hey friends,

Last night I heard a sermon in which the main idea can be summed up to be “being obedient to God brings Joy. And being obedient means loving God and others. So if you’re depressed and want more joy, obey God”. Based off of John 15:9-15.

I found this pretty troubling. Mainly because I can think of loads of examples where I was obedient to God and the immediate response I had was not joy. Actually I can think of many times in my life where I’ve felt irritation at what obedience has meant, what I’ve had to sacrifice and forego, whether it was needing to show love to someone who had wronged me or give up something I was enjoying because I knew it was leading me away from God. There are few times where I’ve been obedient to God and experienced a real, true, godly joy for it.

Perhaps the individual did a bad job of defining what biblical joy is (certainly can’t be a feeling in the way he was describing it, as if it is the cure to depression) or maybe he needed to add that the joy isn’t necessarily immediate…

But it did make me wonder if maybe he is right and there is something wrong in my heart that obedience does not always lead to joy for me. I would say lately, especially, it has not been. Does anyone have thoughts on this? Is obedience supposed to lead to joy every time?

(Lakshmi Mehta) #2

First, I just want to encourage you @Julia_Bracewell, that you are not alone in not feeling joy when you obey God. I too have wondered if I am not a “good christian” as I am not able to live in the joy that Jesus promised even while walking in obedience. When we fail to feel the joy, I think one reason can be because of our longing that world around us will conform to the truths of God that we are trying to conform to by our obedience. I think this experience is the expression of the groaning we experience as children of God and we join the groanings of this creation and the Spirit of God.

Romans 8:22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.

Romans 8:26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.

Sometimes, however, we may not feel joy because we have made the success of our obedience to God the source of joy or significance rather than God Himself as a means of joy and significance. It’s a daily battle I think to stay committed to deriving significance and therefore joy in God alone.

The experience of joy is not a passive process but an active process and that is why we have the command to “Consider it joy” because perseverance gives us hope of life with the Lord.

James 1: 2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.

The book of James describes that the humbling before the Lord feels miserable not joyful but our joy can be in that the Lord exalts us.

James 4:9-10 Be miserable and mourn and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you.

Now what did Jesus mean in John 15:10-11 that you bring up?

John 15: 10 If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.

I think this verse gives a description of the connection between morality and abiding in love which brings joy as a by-product. When we believe that God’s commands are good, we believe that obeying them will bring about good in others, in other words we are able to love them well. When we love well, we feel joyful. But if we don’t feel joy, it does not mean we didn’t obey well or love well. It can also mean we were not loved well in return, which I think is a legitimate desire. If that desire becomes our demand, then it could mean we have lost our focus of deriving our joy in the love of God.

I hope this is helpful in dealing with what you are going through. Julia, I am truly amazed with the challenging work that you are involved in and I am sure you are bringing an inspiration to many. God bless!

(Jennifer Judson) #3

Great question. For those of us who’ve suffered periods of depression, and are living in the faith, it can be hard to reconcile a depressed point of view when we expect to be in a state of joyful expectation. So I join Julia in this inquiry.

Julia – let me ask a question about the times where obedience has lead to irritation, etc. and the times it’s lead to joy…can you discern any difference in your attitude in the circumstance and you’re choice to be obedient? For example, were you being obedient begrudgingly in one circumstance and lovingly in another? Was there a difference in the attitude of your heart?

I fell that God has many things to give us and teach us in obedience, and I don’t think all will be immediate. Especially in circumstances where obedience is very hard, we will find the the outcome usually takes us to a deeper place in our relationship with Jesus, and I have faith that that will ultimately that will lead to peace and joyfulness.

Another thing I’d contribute is if we look at the inverse of what the sermon said – does disobedience bring discontent/unjoyfulness/despair/discord? That’s another thing to ponder.

I don’t think any of us should worry about whether there is something wrong with our hearts (spiritually). By that I mean that out authentic selves are what our offering to God should be. I don’t think we should pretend to be “happy Christians” if that’s not where we really are. I think a key to being authentic with God is knowing what the real condition of your heart is (in the moment) and being in relationship right there. That real place can be a jumping off point for extraordinary adventures with God. I especially think that forgiveness is an area where we grow. I know there have been times when my attitude was, “okay, I’ll forgive him/her, but I don’t want to.” I did it, but I was really just going through the motions. I did it each day, because I knew I wasn’t yet where I was supposed to be in my attitude. It wasn’t really a fake-it-til-you-make-it kind of thing, but there was a gradual softening until my attitude began to match my words. Then I was lead to prayer for the person and then on to a deep desire for them to know God the way that I did. It was a long time between the begrudging start and the place where I could see this person in love. Ultimately, joy came to that relationship AND joy when I look back on the process.

When we’re angry, God desires us to call out to him. When we see and feel deeply the injustice in the world, who can we go to but God? When everything seems to be going against us that day, we call out for a savior…again. Once I started being authentic with God during some really difficult times, I found more and more peace presenting itself in my heart. The difficulties lasted a long time, but they no longer felt crushing and overwhelming. It wasn’t necessarily joy, but a true awareness that I was not alone in the circumstances and I was loved. Since that time I’ve worked hard to be authentic in my inward and outward walk–trying hard not to put on a pretense of being the perfect, got it together, spiritual titan, that I obviously am not. Amazingly, the outcome is I’m growing much deeper. Somehow by being real, I’m seeing The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in more tangible and less abstract ways–much more personal.

Thanks for the question, Julia. Sorry for the rambling.

(Jennifer Judson) #5

That was such a good word. I love the book of James, even though it’s very convicting and challenging.

If you are not familiar with the life of Corrie Ten Boom, then her life story and books would be a good resource in this circumstance. I would start with “The Hiding Place.”

Sometimes we must weigh the temporal vs. the eternal. Some immediate things can bring us great happiness, but ultimately lead to great pain. I married under those circumstances. I rationalized that love would conquer all. Ultimately it lead to a lot of misery because I did not listen to God. I also know it was God that saved me and it lead to a much more committed and deeper walk of faith in the long run. But the consequences were pretty devastating.

As James would tell you, “stand fast.” God is good and as Lakshmi reminded us “abiding” will produce fruit.

Be blessed. Message me if you ever need encouragement.

(Julia Bracewell) #6

Thank you so much for replying!!

I really appreciate the distinction you make between finding success in our obedience to be joy, rather than obedience leading us to God who is true Joy Himself. It is definitely a discipline to finding joy in God.

And thank you for the reminder of James 1:2. I wish I would have pointed this out to the speaker after the sermon was given… because this is what I experience sometimes.

And yes, I certainly can say I have experienced the joy of abiding in God’s love. And obviously, like you pointed out, we can abide in God’s love when we obey His will. That’s the space where we get closest. Perhaps this is the connection he was trying to make, albeit very poorly.

And thank you for the encouragement :slight_smile: I love the work I get to do! Have a lovely day!!

(Lakshmi Mehta) #7

@Julia_Bracewell, thanks for your kind reply. Yes, many a times it is just past knowing of God’s joy that we have to rely on until we experience that touch again. I am glad you know that experience! One thing I thought I didn’t expand on yesterday was about the hope that we will find joy as we persist in obedience. I am glad @Jennifer_Judson, so beautifully explained the whole process and shared her heart. What I am finding is that as we walk in obedience and trust that God loves us, these periods of joy of knowing God’s love personally despite our difficult circumstances become more frequent. We are able to catch ourselves losing that joy and stay away from it as we know it leads no where. We gain confidence in God’s love when we have crossed something we imagined we couldn’t. We see hand of God in the people we meet, the opportunities He brings, the encouragement He brings, we recognize more of our strength as we cling to Him. May God’s abiding presence and joy become tangible to you as you reach out to the hurting around you.

(C Rhodes) #8

@Julia_Bracewell. It’s “Johnny come lately” but I would like to share my story. Years ago I was experiencing persistent sadness and disappointment. Though considered a “Mission Field Worker” for my congregation, there was a great deal of sorrow and anger residing in my heart.

One morning I was fed up! Angrily, and with tears, I asked an older member, my Aunt, why I did not experience the joy of which others had testified and proclaimed. I raged against the brooding atmosphere in our fellowship that reeked of martyrdom. Where is my joy I nearly shouted! To her credit, she simply replied; “I don’t know.”

That shut my mouth, but it did little for the anger. I turned to the only help I knew. I begin to insist upon an answer from the Lord. In the midst of me informing Him of all the disappointment I had experienced and witnessed, came a quiet voice.

“Have I ever broken my word to you?” “No,” was my reply. “Have I ever once fail to hear your cry?” “No,” I replied again. “Have I ever changed?” By now my heart is breaking. Then the Lord hit me with the “piece de resistance!” “There’s your joy,” He announced “The steadfastness of my heart and love for you.”

I don’t know how long I sat wailing in my Aunt’s car that morning. I do know after all the tears and repentance. I stood up a new person. Since that day I walk with a confidence born of that assurance.

I still cry, I still know disappointment, and sometimes I am sad. Either because of my behavior, my circumstances or because of others. But I know, I am loved by an unfailing, unchanging GOD. And that’s like Teflon protection around my soul.

When I first read your questions I was immediately reminded of Hebrews 12:11 and Psalm 30:5.

“Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.” " For his anger endureth but a moment; in his favour is life: weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning."

Like I said before, that’s Teflon coating!

(Jimmy Sellers) #9

I think this a well intended sermon gone bad. There is nothing wrong with the selected verse but I think to say that depression can be warded off my “more obedience to God” would have to be prepared to explain Psalms 88. Please don’t misunderstand I am not saying that God’s joy can’t be realized in your life but from experience I know several Godly believers that have more Psalms 88 days in their then John 15: 9-15 days. I mean this with all due respect to the community.

(Jennifer Girard) #10

Hello all. Such wisdom in your answers! Particularly appreciated the distinction btn finding joy through the success of obedience & finding joy in the Lord himself.
My contribution: remember we are reminded by Jesus to calculate the cost of our obedience. That can mean giving up on things or sacrificing dreams, ideals, or material things or even relationships. Loss is never a joyful experience, but we can count it as a gain as we see the reason/result through God’s eyes.

(Julia Bracewell) #11

Ironically, I just finished her book a few weeks ago!! I definitely can see the ties you are making here. She is certainly a prime example of how obedience to God doesnt… and does… lead to joy.

Your responses have been extremely helpful for me and given me a lot to think about and follow up with. So, truly, thank you!!! Yes, my honesty with God has been lacking, I need to be willing to pray the honest, ugly prayers.

And thank you also for bringing up eternal vs. temporal. Great reminder and certainly true that immediate happiness often leads to lasting pain. I think I remember reading a Ravi quote along the lines of “for illegitimate pleasure, we pay after but for legitimate pleasure, we pay before.”

Thank you again and looking forward to following up with a message…

(Julia Bracewell) #12

I agree with you! Well intended and he was addressing a pretty “seeker friendly” audience. Unfortunately I find that that can mean dangerous oversimplifications that lead to disappointment…

But I am with you. He wasn’t at all speaking to the Psalm 88 days that are all too familiar for many.

(Julia Bracewell) #13

Wow! Thank you so much for taking the time to share your story with me. This whole thread of replies (including yours) has shown me how lacking in honesty my prayers have been about my lack of joy in God. I’m glad to see that it lead to a breakthrough for you…

(Sven Janssens) #14

Define Joy :slight_smile:

I believe it does. It gives a satisfaction to be in the will of God.
Does it always feel good at the moment … nah, not really, but since my goal is to serve God and put Him as first priority, joy becomes part of my live.

This is what Paul says in 2 Cor. 12:9b-10

Therefore, I am very happy to boast about my weaknesses, in order that the Messiah’s power will rest upon me. Yes, I am well pleased with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions and difficulties endured on behalf of the Messiah; for it is when I am weak that I am strong.

Once your focus is on God and the price, I believe that anything that comes on your path will bring you joy, since it will bring you closer to God. Does it hurt? It might, but I believe it will bring joy.
What is joy huh? … :slight_smile:

Jesus obeyed God when going to the cross, suffered greatly for us, went to hell … came back … and yes I believe in His heart there is joy.

Immediate joy? I guess not always, but eventually.
The more a persons focus and understand what is going on the easier it is to accept it and see God through it all.

Again, for me … even through hardship … somehow in my heart, I love it and enjoy what goes on around me. Spending time with my Father prepares me also for things to come.

I remember one time (not to get into much detail) God was preparing me. I didn’t know that at a moment, but at a certain time, I got in a very strange situation. And while lot’s of people freak out, go on pills, drugs or commit suicide, … I felt free. God gave me strength to go through it.
Actually, I was so happy in my situation (not with it) that some people got mad because I was happy … :smiley:
But believe me, only God could have done that. Only in Him, you can experience joy through obedience.
How I see it, of course, hoping you might find something in there to work with.

Sorry if my replies mostly end up in testimonies of things I’ve gone through. But I live with God should give us testimonies.

Bless you :slight_smile: