Happiness and Joy…or Not

Psalm 44; Isaiah 22:8b–14; James 4:4–10

‌‌🔎 Focus

‌Do you not know that with the world is enmity with God?

James 4:4 NRSVue

‌…you did not look at the One who did it, nor did you see the One who planned it…

Isaiah 22:11 NRSVue

We don’t like pain or suffering. We often do anything to avoid it. We can also do anything in an attempt to make it feel better, when we’re suffering from it.

‌It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for this is the of everyone, and the living will lay it to .

Ecclesiastes 7:2 NRSVue

Often sitting in our mourning and pain is more honest and healing than living and striving for revelry and happiness. When we do not confront and deal well with our pain, our wrongs, our being wronged, we react in ways that can be unhealthy for us and for .

‌‌✟ Devotion

‌The full passage in Isaiah talks about how Jerusalem’s vulnerabilities were uncovered (or unhidden) by God. Why? Because of iniquity. What does iniquity have to do with pain and suffering? Well, by this point, the people of Jerusalem (and by extension Judah), had ignored the testing of prophets by the words, and of God by many means.

‌Instead, they chose to tear down homes (and likely the homes of the poor and powerless) to fill the holes in their walls. Were they literal holes in the walls, or is this a more figurative imagery indicating that there was a wrong focus? Probably both.

‌It would be completely within expectations for Isaiah (as inspired by God) to use a practical and physical example to examine the spiritual of the People of God. Instead of doing the hard (and sometimes painful) work of self-reflection, they chose to do the easier, more worldly thing, find something to dull the pain.

‌They forgot the One.

‌This is James’ starting point with his tirade against Christians who have forgotten whose they are and have reverted to the ways of the world. Instead of putting cooperative and mutually humble care for one another—the called for characteristics of Christians—first, they chose to be no different than behavior in the world. Instead of being God’s and reflecting God’s love, they were reflecting the world’s darkness.

‌What ought to catch our attention is that James equates worldly behavior among Christians to adultery. The ultimate of marital union is equated to worldly behavior.

‌We, as Christians, aren’t paragons of what we are supposed to be. Per James, we are adulterers. Perhaps not individually (but how do we contribute), but collectively we are. This is something we need to do the hard work on and not skip it. This covers politics, theology, even pastors and leaders.

‌We forget the One.

‌‌🤔 Reflection

‌What do you think of non-Christian behavior as adultery? Does it your view of non-Christian behavior? How do you work through disagreements on things, even what defines non-Christian behavior, with other Christians?

‌‌⏏️ Act

‌Choose a light topic that you know a fellow Christian disagrees with you on. Discuss it with respect and love. The goal is not to change minds, but to understand the other.

‌🙏 Prayer

‌Gracious God, while we might know intellectually that you are gracious, help us to believe it to the depths of our souls, so that we are gracious to one another. Help us to see our faults, failures, even our love affair with the ways of the world, in light of your gracious love. Guide us to see where we have placed the world and its ways ahead of you and your ways. Amen.