As Christians, we have to remember that we have an Enemy, whose mission is to steal, kill and destroy. One of his most effective weapons against us is his use of false expectations. We are amazing creatures: convinced that where we happen to be at this moment is all that is real, that nothing will ever change in our lives. If we are joyful and on Mount Tabor, that is where we will always stay. If we are miserable and on the Mount of Olives, then that is all we can hope for from life. Satan steals our hope, kills our joy and destroys our passion for life. What can we do?
First of all, let us learn from our brothers and sisters. Peter had to remind the Christians in his day that trials and griefs were not a sign of failure and punishment: “Don’t be surprised at the hardships you are enduring, as though something unusual was happening to you”. God is as much in those times as he was in the days of dancing and joy. Secondly, remember the secret David learned: this, too, will pass. Learn from the men and women of the Bible, and apply it to your own life also. When he faced Goliath, David took courage from previous experience. He had, as a shepherd, faced both a lion and a bear who were attacking the sheep. God enabled him to overcome the lion and the bear, therefore God would enable him to overcome Goliath also.
Over and over in the Psalms, we find David reassuring himself in times of trial and grief: “I remember….”. He reminded himself of God’s faithfulness in earlier times, not in a nostalgic way, but as a lesson to be applied to today’s circumstances. His passion for God enabled him to go through the hard times, as well as to dance and sing in the good times. Our passion for God must be like that: the engine which drives us through all circumstances.
But passion is something that can fade with time, as we have already shown. How do we deal with that? It is hard to live in this world that Satan governs so pitilessly. He takes away people’s passion and replaces it with hatred, despair and complacency (whichever works best at the time). When you speak with passion about Jesus, when you set your heart to live for him and to be faithful and obedient to him, the world, echoing its master, will tell you that you are being foolish. They will tell you that there is no point in being a fanatic; that what was true in the Bible is no longer practical in our day and age.
The world will pour over your hopes and dreams a thick layer of cynicism, trying to drown all idealism and faith. “This is as good as it gets”. Jesus came to give his people abundant life: Satan wants us to believe the world is grey and drab. Like David, we need to have a passion that encompasses both highs and lows, the desert and the throne, the joy and the hardships. This requires some effort on our part.
There are things that give me great pleasure, and sometimes I need to deliberately go back to them as an antidote to bleakness and despair. I’m not just speaking of spiritual things (at least not strictly spiritual), but of anything that brings joy and an appreciation of God’s loving kindness. I can shout aloud for pure joy when I hear Eric Clapton play guitar, or when I look out on the mountains of Connemara, or when I read Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, or P.G. Wodehouse. I find myself praising God that there are such gifts in this world, bringing joy and reminding us of what is wonderful in life. There are times when we need to reject the darkness which crowds around us in this world, when we need to remind ourselves of the joy and the truth of God’s love and faithfulness.
It sometimes takes a real effort to shake off the cynicism and the gloom which the Enemy would use to drown our passion. We must fill our minds and hearts with the Word of God, the promises of our Father, and use this as a sword to cut through the darkness and the lies. Satan would have us partake of the blind despair and self-centredness of the world. But Jesus prayed for us, not that we be taken out of that world, but that we be kept safe from the Evil One.
It takes real passion to stand against the dark, to contradict the thoughts of the world, and to stand for what is real and true and honourable and worthy of praise. The battle takes place in your mind, so fill it with the things which feed your passion for Jesus. And, remembering, always remembering, that our God is unchanging, faithful and all-powerful, and that he will bring to completion the work he began in us. As Paul told the Romans, don’t conform to the world and its ways, but be transfigured by the renewing of your mind, so you will know what is good and what the perfect will of God is. It is so easy to be drugged by the world and its miserable ways. But wake up, sleeper! Rise from the dead, and God will shine on you.