How do you count it all joy when a friend is dying of cancer? How do you count it all joy when life seems to be against you or when others wrong you, you've lost a job or you are struggling with your own health issues?
Life can be seriously hard at times.
Yet, we are called to actively 'pursue' joy in the midst of suffering.
“Suffering is appointed by God for his saints for this purpose, so that as we persevere in suffering God is shown to be more valuable than what we are losing as we suffer.” – John Piper
We have a tendency to think that joy is a byproduct of pleasure. However, the Bible's definition of joy says that joy is dependent on who Jesus is rather than on who we are or what is happening around us. Joy comes from the Holy Spirit. It exists in God’s presence, where there is 'fullness of joy forevermore.'
So we can still have joy even when we walk through hard times? What does that look like?
We're encouraged to remember 3 things…
1. Suffering is Temporary
“After you have suffered a little while,” Peter says, “the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you” (1 Peter 5:10–11).
God encourages us to rejoice when we face trials but doesn't say that they will last forever. Throughout the Bible He reminds us that He walks with us, he cares for us, shelters us, and loves us when we face pain. These seasons are for passing through... they're temporary.
2. God uses hard times to change us
When we look at pain from God’s perspective we experience suffering differently. Our suffering restores, confirms, and strengthens us. Its very purpose is to provide wholeness, peace, and ultimately, joy. It draws us nearer to the source of all comfort – it drives us to our knees in prayer, shakes us from our complacency, and teaches us to cling to Jesus.
When we allow God to work through hard times they mold us into who He wants us to be.
“Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.“ (Romans 5:3-5)
3. Remember what awaits us
“For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.“ (2 Corinthians 4:17)
Remember, we walk through the valley of suffering, we do not lay foundations and build our houses there. Our final destination can't be compared with anything we may face here.
I can’t control what is going on around me. I can’t control what others do. What I can do is look at what I can control and put my trust in the one who controls it all.
Nothing -- absolutely nothing -- happens to one of His beloved saints without passing by Him first!
“Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.”