How’s Your Joie de Vivre?

Other than three years of early teen torture at Miss Gates Dancing School, the closest my wonderful parents came to child abuse was subjecting me to five years of French class in elementary school. Hence, I do recall the above French phrase, which literally means “the joy of life.” The dictionary defines it as, “a delight in being alive; keen, carefree enjoyment of living.” Given the alternative of death, life is pretty delightful, especially when we walk in “de light” of our Lord Jesus and enjoy his presence daily. And, as per 1 Peter 5:7, we can be “carefree” by casting all our care on God, confident of His precise care of us.
 
Were I to put a sub-title on this piece, it would be The Epidemic of Loneliness. That can be true of Christians, and many believers I know are isolated from dynamic, Word-centered, heart-to-heart fellowship. Lately I’ve read several articles about the devastating effects of loneliness. Dr. Caroline Leaf, a Christian neuroscientist, says that loneliness is one of the leading causes of death today. She writes:
 
Isolation is no joke. Loneliness actually increases the risk for premature mortality among all ages, while one recent study indicates that social isolation and loneliness kill more people than obesity. Isolation is linked to a number of dysfunctional immune responses and increased blood pressure, which impact our overall wellbeing. In fact, researchers saw that people who were lonelier produced more inflammation-related proteins in response to stress than did people who were more socially connected, which are associated with numerous conditions including coronary heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, arthritis, and Alzheimer’s disease. On the emotional side, humans need deep and meaningful relationships within which to develop their identity and to thrive in life. The absence of these relationships can often lead to suicide. We need to take loneliness very seriously, as every 40 seconds someone takes his own life.
 
Leaf points out how ironic it is that in today’s age of so much readily accessible stimuli through social media, email, text, face time, skype, and chat rooms, too many people live solitary lives. Many seem to prefer aimlessly scrolling through Instagram, Facebook, online shopping apps or random things on their smart phones rather than going out for coffee with a friend or talking with neighbors. In one sense we are more connected, yet in reality we are more isolated and disconnected than ever before. And she writes: “Loneliness by its very nature is not something we can fix by ourselves. We need to develop a ‘community mindset’ if we want to thrive in life, and if we want to help others as well.”
 
In regard to how to deal with loneliness, Leaf suggests: “Have meaningful discussions; make your conversations matter. Learn to listen. Volunteer to serve others. Switch off your phone. Get out of the house and get involved in helping someone. Get to know your neighbors. You never know who may be struggling with loneliness, and the simple act of reaching out may be what helps someone heal. Be friendly. When you are in a small space with a stranger, such as an elevator, smile and say hello instead of looking at the floor or your phone. Think of ways to start a conversation! Develop the habit of reaching out to friends, family, and colleagues and see if they need anything, even if you just send them a little word of encouragement now and then.” And I would add: Remember that you are the light of the world—and what you have to offer is what everyone needs!
 
A recent Colson Institute piece cited the growing list of “emotional support animals.” Dogs and cats still top the charts, but they are being joined by pigs, ducks, turkeys, and even peacocks. And now some people are even resorting to things like “cow cuddling” and “goat yoga.” Animal therapy is nothing new, and often effective, but the goal should be to help people heal and trust others.
 
The article states: “Today, the proliferation of emotional support animals in all forms and places highlights a real and growing problem across Western culture: loneliness and a lack of connection with other people…Because of our obsession with individualism and autonomy, the average American has gone from having three close friends, on average, to just one…We Christians, of all people, should understand the God-given created need for connectedness. And the Church has an opportunity to offer the world a community of connected people, connected with our Creator and with each other, like no other institution across our society can.”
 
You might remember the Just Say No anti-drug campaign of the 1980s. Subsequent research shows that the “War on Drugs” is missing a crucial point. It is focused more on stopping the supply of drugs than on figuring out why people feel the need to use them in the first place. Some experts say that the problem “of addiction doesn’t lie in what you swallow or inject—it’s in the pain you feel in your head.” Or as one recovering crack and heroin addict said, “Addiction is a disease of loneliness.”
 
Amidst many people expressing hateful extremism or nihilistic meaninglessness and aiming their anger at the defenseless, statistics reveal an epidemic of despair. In the first 17 years of this century, suicide rates have risen 14 percent, and the death rate from drug overdoses increased by a mind-boggling 400 percent. In the midst of such cultural chaos and a current climate of fear, our hope is not in government, but in God.
 
The real answer to this dilemma is the Body of Christ, believers living in fellowship with the Lord Jesus and with each other. Actually, the two are inseparable. The more I love God and Christ, the more I love those whom they love, i.e., my “neighbors.” In that regard, how are you doing? If you are married, you have a “built in” friend, confidante, and prayer partner. But I think it is vital for each of us to also have at least one intimate friend of the same sex. Who is praying for you? With whom do you share the deepest issues of your life, as in “iron sharpening iron”? With whom are you involved in “hearts knit together” Christian fellowship, and with whom are you pursuing the goal of building a thriving local fellowship? Perhaps most importantly, WHO LOVES YOU—and consistently shows and tells you so?
 
When it comes to the benefits of genuine friendship, here are a few pertinent verses: Proverbs 17:17 – “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.” Proverbs 27: 6 – “Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.” Proverbs 27:9 – “Ointment and perfume rejoice the heart: so does the sweetness of a man’s friend by hearty counsel.” I also think of Romans 16, and the lengthy list of individuals, by name, in whom Paul had invested so much of his life.
 
Consider the following verses, which begin with how Jesus Christ has given us full access to our Heavenly Father, which is our foundation for properly relating to our Christian brethren:
 
Hebrews 10:19-25
19 Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
 
Interestingly, the Greek word translated “meeting together” in verse 25 is episunagoge, and its only other use is in 2 Thessalonians 2:1 – “Now, brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to him…” So, what’s the connection? I think it is that the sweetness of the fellowship we should be enjoying in this life can replicate, at least to some degree, what we will experience after we are all caught up to be with the Lord. How cool is that?
 
As you may have noticed, our Father God is all about FAMILY. Consider the many Scripture references to “widows” (32) and the “fatherless” (41). For example: Deuteronomy 10:18 – “He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing.” Psalm 146:9 – “YAHWEH watches over the foreigner and sustains the fatherless and the widow, but he frustrates the ways of the wicked.” And the following verses:
 
Psalm 68:4-6
4 Sing to God, sing in praise of his name, extol him who rides on the clouds; rejoice before him—his name is YAHWEH. 5 A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling. 6 God sets the lonely in families, he leads out the prisoners with singing; but the rebellious live in a sun-scorched land.
 
God’s Adversary, the “god of this age,” is placing other impediments in the way of meaningful human relationships. One of his divisive tactics is promoting the age-old false standard of “Brains, Beauty, and Bucks” to determine the worth of a person. Even we Christians, if we do not realize our standing as sons of God “in Christ,” are susceptible to this ploy, and may thus feel an unnecessary sense of inferiority that stops us from fearlessly extending God’s goodness to others. Consider the following verses:
 
Jeremiah 9:23-24
23 This is what YAHWEH says: “Let not the wise boast of their wisdom or the strong boast of their strength or the rich boast of their riches, 24 but let the one who boasts boast about this: that they have the understanding to know me, that I am YAHWEH, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,” declares YAHWEH.
 
These days, the Enemy is doubling down in his attempts to divide people by race, gender, age, social standing, and political affiliation. And besides his “war on free speech,” he has launched a “war on touch” designed to deprive people of the kind of godly affection (as in “Greet one another with a holy kiss”—or at least a heartfelt hug) that is vital for our overall health.
 
Coming back to the subject of our joie de vivre, I assert that it is directly proportional to the quality of our relationship with our Father and our Lord, as well as how effectively we interact with other members of the Body of Christ. Remember too that being alone need not mean being lonely. In truth, you are NEVER alone, and speaking in tongues reminds you that the risen Christ is closer than your breath, and he loves you more than you know.
 
Let us put off self-consciousness, self-pity, and self-focus, and go do something for someone else, especially something we cannot do without the Lord’s help. That is what will allow him to infuse us with his passion for life, which he demonstrated throughout all that he endured. The joy of the Lord is our strength! 

Comments

  1. Only liked minded believers who know these truths in this article, and many others from God’s rightly divided Word (mature believer’s) and have the integrity of character to live as Christ lived will have and manifest this genuine fellowship which God and Christ desires!

  2. Regarding isolation-reminds me of a very sad state of being mentioned in 1Cor.12:21…The eye cannot say unto the hand “I have no need of thee”

    We need each other…!!!

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