Psalm 51:12 – Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. (NIV)
Years ago, I went to a conference in Los Angeles, California. One of the keynote speakers was known nationally as being a pastor to pastors in crisis. He spent over twenty years leading churches, so he experienced first-hand the trials and tribulations of being the target of church members, especially when they were frustrated with his preaching or annoyed at his decisions. He called those people "joy-suckers" because they literally sucked the whole joy out of his being and, funnily enough, they did the same to the happiness of the congregation. Many pastors at the conference understood how he felt, and at that time, I also knew what he was talking about.
Nowadays, I take a different view. I've discovered that the people whom the speaker labelled as "joy-suckers" have usually undergone a tragic or traumatic event in their lives, which overshadows their spirits. They carry burdens in their hearts and souls which affect their relationships, and sometimes they become spiritually depressed. It's not that they are "joy-suckers"; they are really "joy-seekers" — trying hard to cope with life and courageously carrying on, despite the hidden heartbreaks within. They know the prayer of David, when he pleads with God to restore the joy of His salvation. They seek this above all things and desperately try to lead a normal, happy life.
Perhaps we are going to come across people who carry painful and heavy burdens this week. Perhaps our first reaction will be to avoid them or to show a disinterest in them. They need to know that we love them, so we need to be patient. We need to listen and be open to hearing their hurts. We need to help them find the joy, healing, and strength for which their spirits yearn.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, keep us from being dismissive of others who appear to be "joy-suckers", but who are really "joy-seekers". Teach us to be patient, and help us to help those who are trying to cope with life's hurts and hardships, which we may never know or experience. In Your holy name, we pray. Amen.
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