“Are you consistently keeping your soul happy in God?” It was an unexpected question. If Mark, our pastor and small group leader had asked, “Are you consistently practicing the spiritual disciplines?” I would have given a simple “yes.” But this question required a more thoughtful response. Do I emerge from my quiet time happy? Hmmmm. “In all honesty, I would have to say ‘no.’"
This question that Mark put to our care group several weeks ago was drawn from the personal reflections of nineteenth-century pastor, George Mueller:
“I saw more clearly than ever, that the first great and primary business to which I ought to attend every day was, to have my soul happy in the Lord. The first thing to be concerned about was not, how much I might serve the Lord, how I might glorify the Lord; but how I might get my soul into a happy state, and how my inner man might be nourished.”
It was easy for my friends to diagnose my lack of joy in God, for it’s a common malady. I had unconsciously “shifted from the gospel of grace” (Col. 1:21-23). My quiet times had become a dreary recounting of all my sins from the previous day, a period of morbid introspection over the cause of those sins, and an anxiety over my lack of progress in mortification. No wonder my soul wasn’t happy!
So I decided to, as my dad says, “restrict my spiritual diet;” to stand squarely on the bedrock of my joy--the glorious truths of the gospel. Because, as our dear friend Mr. Spurgeon writes:
“Here in the cross is where every enemy of joy is overcome: divine wrath, as he becomes a curse for us; real guilt, as he becomes forgiveness for us; lawbreaking, as he becomes righteousness for us; estrangement from God, as he becomes reconciliation for us; slavery to Satan, as he becomes redemption for us; bondage to sin, as he becomes liberation for us; pangs of conscience, as he becomes cleansing for us; death, as he becomes the resurrection for us; hell, as he becomes eternal life for us.”
You know what? Now I come out of my quiet time happier than when I went in! I’m still the greatest sinner I know, but I am a sinner clothed in the righteousness of Christ. And that truth, as it sinks in, permeates my soul with joy.
So how about you, is your soul happy? Is it spin around, laugh out loud, grin ‘till it hurts, happy in God? If not, then come with me to the cross. And gaze awhile.