Starting next Tuesday I'm going to praise the Lord like gangbusters. That's when my meeting in Harrisburg is over and I can exhale. How wonderful it will be then, the white-knuckling behind me and the joy in Christ before me. For now, I need to worry.
I'm going to rejoice in the Lord, I really am, but I cannot rejoice today. Today, all sleep-deprived, my goal is just to muddle through till bedtime when I'll catch a solid eight and be in shape to "reign in life" tomorrow.
Woe is me! The same old sin has snared my soul again. I have repented copiously, but how could I, vile sinner that I am, come to His gates with joyful praise without a proper pause (of several days) to beat my breast and stay away and suffer for my wretchedness? Psalm 51 pleads, "blot out my transgressions" and "restore to me the joy of Your salvation," but surely David doesn't mean today. Must keep respectable delay of time betwixt the two.
I said to Jesus, "Help me trust in Your unfailing love." And then I sank again into morbidity, to hunker down until such time as He saw fit to answer me. No rush, I thought. He is the Lord. What can I do until He acts?
A friend objected to my piety. Not "Lord, help me to trust in You" (quoth he) but "Lord, I trust in You! Yea, by Your grace I trust in You!" There's something psychologically different here, my chastened soul took note: The first prayer has a pious sound but never gets around to business, letting me postpone the joy it seeks a month or two, the meanwhile dithering in unbelief while waiting for divinity to bring me 'round robotically. The second prayer enlists the mind and soul and will, no more defaulting into foolish thoughts of Tuesday next.
Paul commands, "Rejoice!" (Philippians 3:1). David says, "Rejoice!" (Psalm 32:11). But that will have to wait a week or two 'cause now I'm in a stew. There's something I want badly and I must be anxious till it's mine. A major life decision has me tied in knots until it's made. And Satan has a laundry list of reasons why I should not sing (Zechariah 3:1). So pray excuse me from the banquet of His joy: "I have bought a field, and I must go out and see it. . . . I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to examine them. . . . I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come" (Luke 14).
No. This nonsense stops today. Not "I'll rejoice someday," but "I'm rejoicing now." Not "I will trust someday," but "I am trusting now." I have decided that William J. Reynolds' hymn, "I Have Decided to Follow Jesus," is not Arminianism but decisiveness. Once a day or 50 times a day, as needed, I will fight off fear with praise.
"Life is a series of problems. Either you are in one now, you're just coming out of one, or you're getting ready to go into another one" (Rick Warren, author of The Purpose Driven Life). Next Tuesday is a vain imagining. And you will never just coast into joy but you must take it by the horns.
For joy must be intentional or it is no match for anxiety. God shows the way out of heaviness and into joy: You best put on "the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit" (Isaiah 61:3). The hour is late, next Tuesday never comes, and faith in God is now or naught. Time to stop this stumbling in defeat and live in joy that's worthy of the gospel.
The dog bites and the bee stings and you're feeling sad. But blest are those who praise God in the midst of it, who praise Him when their heart is broken. "As they go through the Valley of Baca they make it a place of springs" (Psalm 84), not vainly waiting till such time as Baca falls into the sea-which verily it will one day, but not, perhaps, next Tuesday.
Put on your dancing shoes, baby!