Have you ever read in the Bible about Paul talking about being joyful in everything, or how Stephen, the Martyr was filled with joy even as he was being stoned to death?
Have you ever thought it was positively out of your reach to be “joyful in affliction”, or been confused by what Paul meant in 2 Corinthians 12 when he said
“9 And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” ? NKJV
Romans 12:11 not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; 12 rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer, NAS
James 1:2 Count it all joy, my brethren, when ye fall into manifold temptations; 1:3 Knowing that the proving of your faith worketh patience. 1:4 And let patience have [its] perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, lacking in nothing. ASV
Proverbs 3:11 My son, despise not the chastening of the LORD; neither be weary of his correction: 12 For whom the LORD loveth he correcteth; even as a father the son in whom he delighteth. KJV
Take pleasure in infirmities? Joyful in tribulation? Taking heart when the Lord disciplines us?
I used to read those and think “There is no way that I could possibly get to the point where I am actually happy to be in pain, in sorrow, in having bad things happen to me. No way at all. That must be for holier people than I am.”.
I will let you in on what the Lord has taught me—it is not the holiness of the person, it is the loving mercy of the Lord. It is resting in Him, not trusting in myself. What separates those who wither when they suffer and those who are joyful when they suffer is nothing but each of them choosing a different focus. The first one chooses to focus on the suffering. When they do that, they miss every blessing. They also cannot access the “peace that passes all understanding”. They do not have that to “guard their hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”.
However, those who are joyful in the very same suffering are the ones who listened to the Lord, who trusted Him. They are not saved from suffering, they are saved through suffering. They are joyful because their trust is in the Lord. He blesses that trust with peace.
You see, there is no way, even by hiding in our houses, to avoid pain and suffering. You are suffering every day right now. It is a familiar suffering, and you have not been willing, in the past, to trade that daily suffering for a normal life because you have been afraid that it might be worse than what you are going through now.
Let me offer that you will suffer less, though you might endure more, when you trust the Lord.
There are times in my life where I was utterly miserable, even though everything was “fine”, because I did not have closeness with the Lord.
Then there have been times when everything seemed to be working against me, but I was at peace and joyful because I was close with the Lord.
When you have tasted the intimacy with the Lord, you realize that there is no pain on earth you would not endure in order to be close to Him, and no pleasure you would claim if it took you even one step away from Him. It is honestly that sublime, that physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually pleasant and filling and good.
This lesson of “joy in suffering” might be one of the most “contrary to human nature” lessons that the Lord has for us. It is “godliness with contentment”. It is full trust in the Lord. It is beyond human ability, frankly. But it is not beyond JESUS’ ability. Remember, He already defeated every bad thing. He has already paid for sins we have not yet committed, and He has given us faith we could not have on our own. We just have to start living the reality of our salvation, instead of the false reality that we need to protect ourselves from suffering.