We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. Romans 5.3-4 (NLT)
I don’t know about you but when I’m going through a really difficult time, I don’t jump up and down and celebrate the fact. I’m more likely to turn tail and run. To get as far away from my problem as possible, even if all I can do is remove myself emotionally.
Recently, I watched a friend bury his beloved wife. They were soul mates who had journeyed together for over forty years.
His heart is cracking apart with grief. The loss and loneliness are a crushing burden he carries every day.
It seems almost sacrilegious to read this verse about rejoicing when we face trails in respect to my friend’s circumstance. Does God really expect him to rejoice in this devastating sorrow?
Is my friend celebrating his loss, NEVER.
But I do see him rejoicing. Rejoicing in the years he had . . . rejoicing in a God that gives and takes away . . . rejoicing in what is to come.
It’s easy to think of joy as an emotion of happiness. In fact, the dictionary describes it that way. But joy is so much deeper. According to God, we can experience joy in the deepest of sorrow. In excruciating pain there is joy.
Ephesians 1.5 says this, “God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure.”
Do you see the joy and pain in this verse? God’s adoption plan was sending His only Son to die in our place. What pain! What sorrow!
Look what He says next, “He wanted to do it and it gave him great pleasure!”
Pain and Joy. Seemingly so diametrically opposed to one another and yet, at the core of God’s rescue plan for us!
Why should this journey of following our Savior be any different?
Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. 1 Peter 4.12-13(NIV)
Ted Dekker in his book, “When Heaven Weeps” writes about our death as a follower of Jesus, as our Wedding Day and Jesus’ death on the cross was our grand wedding announcement. (I love this!)
Sorrow and Joy.
Tumbling around together in this unpredictable life.
So how can my friend know joy in such a great time of sorrow?
Because he’s chosen a life of TRUST. He’s living what he believes. It’s at the core of who he is. He KNOWS God is not a cruel and unjust God who delights in bringing sorrow upon those He’s created but a God who is GOOD all the time. He’s discovered the joy of embracing God’s work in his past and it is his stronghold for the future.
JOY comes from knowing God and trusting His way. Joy comes from the deep springs of the soul. It doesn’t happen overnight, it’s developed over time as we grab hold of HIS hand and put one foot in front of the other. As we walk His way.
Jesus said in John 16.33 (NIV), “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”