Three years ago the day before yesterday, God spoke to me. I don't say these words lightly; I've listened to people who claim to have had God speaking to them, and more often than not, they seem a bit loopy to me; not that God can't speak to loopy people, but the things they say God told them usually don't stand the test of Scripture. I've told the story before, but it bears repeating as our presidential politics will be heating up pretty soon.
It was during the Obama/Romney debates. I was following the race pretty intently, both through cable news and internet feeds. When someone would post a particularly biting article or photo with commentary, I was quick to pass it along. And as a staunch conservative, when Obama won, I was pretty discouraged. Four years of this administration was more than enough, and the thought of another four didn't help my mood any. On December 28, 2012, God spoke. I didn't hear an audible voice, but there is no doubt in my mind that it was God who asked, "Jim, what happened to your joy?" Understand, no one would ever have accused me of being overly joyful even on my best days, but the fact is, it was gone. Completely. I didn't even know where to look for it.
That same day, I stumbled across a website, aholyexperience.com, on which I found a calendar called JoyDare which gave three suggestions each day of things for which to give thanks. I took up the challenge and started a gratitude journal, at first barely mentioning three things each day, but gradually taking time to stop, ponder, and really be thankful. I posted my observations on Facebook, and over time, one paragraph turned into two, three, and four. At the end of the year, I had nearly four hundred pages of things for which I was grateful. Best of all, when I looked back over the year I discovered that the melancholy that had dogged me most of my adult life was gone! I'm still not an over-the-top happy-happy kind of guy, but this discipline of gratitude has genuinely changed my life.
Turns out, it was a matter of sin and obedience. We are commanded in Scripture to give thanks in all circumstances (1 Thess. 5:18), and for all things (Eph. 5:20). Failing to do so wasn't just a personality quirk; it was a sin. And sin and joy are incompatible.
I haven't mastered this discipline yet; I stumble and grumble occasionally. But I've turned a lifetime of melancholy into a life of joy. So here we are in another cycle of presidential politics, and I'm tempted to get sucked into it all. But I have learned the futility of it all. Our future isn't tied to whatever happens next November. God is still in control, and even if the candidate I choose happens to win, he won't be the Messiah, and won't usher in the Kingdom of Heaven. And if my candidate loses, all won't be lost. Much, maybe, but not all, for my hope and my future is in the Christ who promised that one day "the kingdoms of this world will become the kingdom of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign forever and ever." (Revelation 11:15).