Joy in the Midst of Suffering?

” James 1:2 tells us, “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials…” (NIV)

Wait! What? Joy in the midst of suffering? My suffering put me in the pit of despair! There was absolutely no joy in my life!

However, what I came to understand as the months went by, was this JOY isn’t a feeling of happiness based on my good days or bad days. Happiness is fleeting; depending on what’s happening in my life.

“The Lord is my strength and shield. I trust Him with all my heart. He helps me and my heart is filled with JOY. (Psalm 28:7 NLT)

Strength, shield, trust, help, JOY. In this verse I read that the Lord is my strength. Strength to help me carry on in my trials and sufferings. I read that the Lord is my shield. My place of safety. I read that the Lord helps me, therefore, I can trust Him in ALL things. This is my JOY.

This JOY is one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit lives in me. Therefore, it is this JOY that sustains me. Even in the midst of my suffering. Joy points to HOPE. Hope of Eternal Life. It is real. I will see my Lord and Savior. I will see my family again. No more tears. No more suffering. THIS causes me to be JOYFULL. (But the fruit of the Spirit is love, JOY, peace…” Galatians 5:22 NIV) So, suffering and trials shouldn’t cause us to start doubting our faith.

Still we all wonder, “I’m running this race that is set before me. I’m fighting the good fight of faith.” (1Timothy 6:12 NIV) “So, why is this happening?” There is no easy answer to the age-old question, “Why is there such suffering in the world? Why do bad things happen to good people?” The age-old, commonly used answer that leaves us shaking our heads is, “Sin entered into the world through Adam and Eve’s disobedience to God’s command.” Well, this answer does not help at all!

Perhaps the question we should be asking is, “What am I going to do now with this tragedy?” And, “How is God going to enter into this trial with me and help me?”

As I think about the different stories in the Bible, starting from Genesis to Revelation, I think the Bible should have a subtitle, “The Great Book of Suffering”

Adam and Eve kicked out of the Garden of Eden. Enmity between them and God. Cain and Abel. Murder. Lies. Deception. Joseph and his jealous brothers. They sold Joseph and then lied to their father that a beast had attacked and killed his beloved son. The Israelite people. God’s chosen people. Really? The have suffered more than any other peoples on the face of the earth. Chosen by God? For what? Suffering?

Look at Job. He lost everything! All his children and livestock. Towards the end of the Book of Job, we find Job angry and bitter for the anguish that has befallen him. He’s yelling at God, saying, “I ran the race that was set before me! I fought the good fight of faith! Now look at me! I’m ruined. I hate the very day I was born!” Then God answered Job…

“Job! I see the big picture! You don’t! Even in your suffering, I can make good come from it. Besides, Job, “I will question you, and you shall answer Me. Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell Me if you have understanding. Who determined its measurements? Surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it? How were its foundations fastened? Or who laid its cornerstone, when the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?” (Job 38) God continues His discourse and finally Job, who just learned a lesson from His God, answers, “I know that You can do everything, and that no purpose of Yours can be withheld from You. … Therefore, I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.” Like Job, we don’t see the big picture! We can, however, learn to trust God to turn our ashes to beauty.

True JOY was knowing that as I stood outside Russell and Shawna’s house that fateful night, wondering what was happening and then hearing the words, “There are 4 confirmed dead. I’m sorry for your loss,” was the fact that Jesus was right there with me. In that split second of time, I ran to His arms that were outstretched towards me, waiting for me to go to Him and find the comfort I needed. I trusted God to turn these ashes to beauty. I asked Him to use me to do whatever it was He had for me to do to turn this awful reality of my family’s deaths into something good.

Back to the statement, “Joy in the midst of suffering?”, I realized that my awful circumstances didn’t determine my JOY. In spite of everything, my JOY was intact because it wasn’t based on my circumstances that night. My JOY was cemented in the knowledge that God is still a good God and He would enter into my suffering with me and turn it around for my good and for His glory. My JOY laid in the fact that there is HOPE. Hope of a better future in the glory of God in Heaven forever.

Jesus submitted to His Father’s will in the Garden of Gethsemane and on the cross, and He did it for a reason. Other than reconciling us to His Father, Jesus submitted to His Father’s will for, “…the JOY that was set before Him.”      (Hebrews 12: 2 NKJV)