It happens to all of us. We have all walked through the slough of despond, a fictional, deep bog in John Bunyan’s allegory The Pilgrim’s Progress, into which the protagonist Christian sinks under the weight of his sins and his sense of guilt for them. When that happens, we need to follow David’s example, and cry out to God to “Restore unto me the joy of your salvation.” (Psalm 51:12)
It happens to Christians of all ages, at all phases of their lives, and at all stages of maturity in their faith. Sometimes it’s our own fault and sometimes it is caused by circumstances. It happens to the Christian, after the emotional high of salvation has passed, when the reality of living starts to weigh them down. It happens to the Christian who is overwhelmed by circumstances in their life. It happens to the Christian who just gets tired and worn out, when their life become stale and rote. Wherever you are in life and whatever the cause, the most important thing to realize is this is common, it happens to everyone, and eventually it will happen to you.
The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure. (1 Corinthians 10:13)
Joy can be restored
The most exciting thing about the Christian life is hope. Not a hope so, guess so, think so, hope. But an eager expectation (Romans 8:19) for the will of God to be revealed. David expressed this hope after a time of terrible sins in his life: adultery, murder, lying. If he can be restored to joy, so can you.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and make me willing to obey you. (Psalm 51:12)
For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, said the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end. (Jeremiah 29:11)
And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)
Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. (Philippians 4:6)
Three things will last forever–faith, hope, and love–and the greatest of these is love. (1 Corinthians 13:13)
Seek medical help for medical problems
In the 21st century, we understand sickness and disease are caused by birth defects, injury, radiation mutation, chemical damage, bacterial infection, viruses, and natural aging. Our bodies are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14). When something goes wrong, everything is affected. When one member suffers, all suffer together (1 Corinthians 12:26). When any part of you is sick, everything suffers. When your heart is sick, everything suffers. When your brain is sick, everything suffers. So first, when you feel something has changed or your friends tell you something has changed, seek a good thorough medical checkup to rule out physical causes.
I do not believe in so-called faith healing because it is not supported by Biblical doctrine. Nor do I recommend modern psychotherapy and other therapeutic communication techniques because they ignore God’s laws. I do not recommend home remedies or pseudo-science: like apple vinegar, alkaline water, massage therapy, chiropracty, or homeopathy because I believe they waste money and give false hope. But I do believe in the power of placebos, so if it makes you feel better, more power to you. Even a common cold can cause you to feel like you have lost the joy of your salvation, but when you realize what it is, you can be an overcomer.
Confess your sins and repent of your wrongdoing
The Apostle Paul described sin as having consequences. “That is why many of you are weak and sick and some have even died. (1 Corinthians 11:30)” Sin separates you from God, but confession restores that relationship, and repentance restores the fellowship. (1 John 1) If you are living in sin, or there is ongoing sin in your life, then you are damaging your conscience, so don’t expect to have the joy of your salvation. When you cause someone else to “wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ (1 Corinthians 8:12)” You need to be honest with yourself. If this is where you are, then get right with the Lord and you will be well on your way to restoring the joy of your salvation.
51:7-15 Purge me with hyssop, with the blood of Christ applied to my soul by a lively faith, as the water of purification was sprinkled with a bunch of hyssop. The blood of Christ is called the blood of sprinkling, Heb 12:24. If this blood of Christ, which cleanses from all sin, cleanse us from our sin, then we shall be clean indeed, Heb 10:2. He asks not to be comforted, till he is first cleansed; if sin, the bitter root of sorrow, be taken away, he can pray in faith, Let me have a well-grounded peace, of thy creating, so that the bones broken by convictions may rejoice, may be comforted. Hide thy face from my sins; blot out all mine iniquities out of thy book; blot them out, as a cloud is blotted out and dispelled by the beams of the sun. And the believer desires renewal to holiness as much as the joy of salvation. David now saw, more than ever, what an unclean heart he had, and sadly laments it; but he sees it is not in his own power to amend it, and therefore begs God would create in him a clean heart. When the sinner feels this change is necessary, and reads the promise of God to that purpose, he begins to ask it. He knew he had by his sin grieved the Holy Spirit, and provoked him to withdraw. This he dreads more than anything. He prays that Divine comforts may be restored to him. When we give ourselves cause to doubt our interest in salvation, how can we expect the joy of it? This had made him weak; he prays, I am ready to fall, either into sin or into despair, therefore uphold me with thy Spirit. Thy Spirit is a free Spirit, a free Agent himself, working freely. And the more cheerful we are in our duty, the more constant we shall be to it. What is this but the liberty wherewith Christ makes his people free, which is contrasted with the yoke of bondage? Ga 5:1. It is the Spirit of adoption spoken to the heart. Those to whom God is the God of salvation, he will deliver from guilt; for the salvation he is the God of, is salvation from sin. We may therefore plead with him, Lord, thou art the God of my salvation, therefore deliver me from the dominion of sin. And when the lips are opened, what should they speak but the praises of God for his forgiving mercy? –Matthew Henry Commentary
Look unto Jesus, the author and finisher of your faith
When all hope is gone in a court case, it’s time to throw yourself on the mercy of the court. When all your hope and joy are gone, it’s time to throw yourself on the mercy of your savior. When you’re focused on yourself and what you can do, it’s a pretty small package with pretty limited power, which practically guarantees you will lose the joy of your salvation. When you let go and let God, he will provide all your needs, which will restore the joy of your salvation.
So then, since we have a great High Priest who has entered heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to what we believe. This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most. (Hebrews 4:14-16)
Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God [set aside self-righteous pride], so that He may exalt you [to a place of honor in His service] at the appropriate time, casting all your cares [all your anxieties, all your worries, and all your concerns, once and for all] on Him, for He cares about you [with deepest affection, and watches over you very carefully]. (1 Peter 5:6-7 AMP)
Walk through the valley of the shadow of death
God has promised to deliver you, but you may need to walk through the valley of the shadow of death (Psalm 23). Even now, you may be suffering, but you can have joy in your suffering, if you will set your eyes on the end zone. Your suffering won’t be joyful, but you can have joy in spite of your suffering. Happiness is a decision. Trust God and carry on.
Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me. (Psalm 23:4)
I have set the LORD continually before me; Because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. (Psalm 16:8)
And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39)
Be humbled by God’s power so that when the right time comes he will honor you. Turn all your anxiety over to God because he cares for you. Keep your mind clear, and be alert. Your opponent the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion as he looks for someone to devour. Be firm in the faith and resist him, knowing that other believers throughout the world are going through the same kind of suffering.
God, who shows you his kindness and who has called you through Christ Jesus to his eternal glory, will restore you, strengthen you, make you strong, and support you as you suffer for a little while. Power belongs to him forever. Amen. (1 Peter 5:6-11 GWT)
Forget the past and look forward to what lies ahead
Jesus Christ has paid the penalty for your sins: past, present, and future. Therefore, he has the right to do with them as he pleases: cast them behind his back, bury them under the deepest sea. He has removed them as far as the east is from the west. And, the most amazing thing, he doesn’t remember them anymore. It’s time to live like the theme of this famous Country-Western song, “And he said someday I hope you get the chance, To live like you were dyin’.” Why do you let the only real enemy of every Christian keep you from living like it? Get rid of the things that drag you down and get away from the people that drag you down. Instead stay close to those who build you up and it will restore the joy of your salvation.
I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.
Let all who are spiritually mature agree on these things. If you disagree on some point, I believe God will make it plain to you. But we must hold on to the progress we have already made.
Dear brothers and sisters, pattern your lives after mine, and learn from those who follow our example. For I have told you often before, and I say it again with tears in my eyes, that there are many whose conduct shows they are really enemies of the cross of Christ. They are headed for destruction. Their god is their appetite, they brag about shameful things, and they think only about this life here on earth. But we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for him to return as our Savior. He will take our weak mortal bodies and change them into glorious bodies like his own, using the same power with which he will bring everything under his control. (Philippians 3:12-21)
But you, dear friends, must build each other up in your most holy faith , pray in the power of the Holy Spirit, and await the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will bring you eternal life. In this way, you will keep yourselves safe in God’s love. (Jude 1:20-21)
Rely upon the Lord and his mighty strength
This is a terrible world under the control of the wicked one (1 John 5:19) but Jesus Christ prayed for you (John 17) to be strengthened and protected. I read the end of the book: we win! There’s nothing like being on the winning team to restore the joy of your salvation.
When the servant of the man of God got up early the next morning and went outside, there were troops, horses, and chariots everywhere. “Oh, sir, what will we do now?” the young man cried to Elisha.
“Don’t be afraid!” Elisha told him. “For there are more on our side than on theirs!” Then Elisha prayed, “O LORD, open his eyes and let him see!” The LORD opened the young man’s eyes, and when he looked up, he saw that the hillside around Elisha was filled with horses and chariots of fire. (2 Kings 6:15-17)
You know the times [in which we are living]. It’s time for you to wake up. Our salvation is nearer now than when we first became believers. The night is almost over, and the day is near. So we should get rid of the things that belong to the dark and take up the weapons that belong to the light. We should live decently, as people who live in the light of day. Wild parties, drunkenness, sexual immorality, promiscuity, rivalry, and jealousy cannot be part of our lives. Instead, live like the Lord Jesus Christ did, and forget about satisfying the desires of your sinful nature. (Romans 13:11-14 GWT)
Finally, receive your power from the Lord and from his mighty strength. Put on all the armor that God supplies. In this way you can take a stand against the devil’s strategies. This is not a wrestling match against a human opponent. We are wrestling with rulers, authorities, the powers who govern this world of darkness, and spiritual forces that control evil in the heavenly world. For this reason, take up all the armor that God supplies. Then you will be able to take a stand during these evil days. Once you have overcome all obstacles, you will be able to stand your ground. So then, take your stand! Fasten truth around your waist like a belt. Put on God’s approval as your breastplate. Put on your shoes so that you are ready to spread the Good News that gives peace. In addition to all these, take the Christian faith as your shield. With it you can put out all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Also take salvation as your helmet and the word of God as the sword that the Spirit supplies. (Ephesians 6:10-17 GWT)
Get out of yourself and serve others
According to the famous song of the 60’s, “One is the loneliest number that you’ll ever do.” The Christian life is not a solitary sedentary stilllife. The Christian life is a living breathing working real life. Get up and serve God. Do something worthwhile. Help others. It will be contagious. It will restore the joy of your salvation.