My friend, Mary, couldn't understand why her almonds were disappearing. She had set out a dishful for snacking, but she certainly wasn't eating them that fast. The only other person around was her husband, so naturally, she suspected him. He adamantly denied any guilt in the crime. Her disappearing almonds remained a mystery — until one day, she overheard her neighbouring apartment dwellers complain about a mice infestation. Might that be the explanation? She herself saw no evidence, but nevertheless, she set out traps. In no time, she caught five mice. The mystery was solved, and thereafter, she enjoyed her almonds just as she wished: set out in her favourite bowl.
Mary's troubles got me thinking about joy robbers. These culprits can also infest our lives. Like Mary, we may blame people around us for ruining our joy. Meanwhile, the real thief sneaks around, undetected. What are these joy robbers? Jesus provides a clue:
Matthew 13:19 – When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. (NIV)
Surely Satan is the chief of joy robbers. He doesn't want us to have joy in the Lord. He's like a prowling lion on the hunt for those he can pull down through deceptions, those poorly rooted in God and His Word. Satan's aim is to distance people from God's magnificent promises, such as these:
Psalm 16:11b – You will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand. (NIV)
Psalm 94:19 – When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought joy to my soul. (NIV)
When Mary discovered the culprits, she made an important decision: to keep the traps set so that she wouldn't lose more almonds.
It's no different with joy. Without diligent "pest control" measures, our joy will keep on being robbed. I believe that our most effective "pest control" strategy is to be well-rooted in God and His promises. Let that forge our worldview. Then, when besetting worries or gnawing annoyances plague us, we won't get robbed of God's joy for us.
The apostle Paul is a suburb example of thief-proofed joy. He wrote:
Romans 14:17 – For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. (NIV)
No assault could steal Paul's joy. His joy didn't depend on fleeting circumstance, but rather, on solid evidence — evidence of God's promises being fulfilled. Paul was witnessing God's work in the converts, and he affectionately called them "my joy and crown" (Philippians 4:1 NIV).
For us, it may be hard to grasp such depth of joy when we keep witnessing the discouraging outcomes of society's spiritual decline. Paul offered an effective "pest control" measure in saying, "Be joyful in hope" (Romans 12:12a NIV). Yes! God will prevail! When our joy is firmly rooted in such hope, nothing can steal it.
Prayer: Lord, restore for us, the joy of Your salvation. Help us to preserve the joy that You set out for us. Increase our joy through witnessing Your grace at work — still today. Amen.
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