At first glance this title seems like quite a conundrum but in fact it is my heart’s desire. After all, we have not been promised a suffering free life but man do we fight against it don’t we? John 16:33 says,’I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.’ hallelujah we say but then our focus blurs from our suffering and as it is defined, suffering is not a walk in the park. Suffering – the state of undergoing pain, distress or hardship. Pain caused by injury, illness or loss etc, physical, mental or emotional ( I am adding spiritual as well for when we are separated from God, this causes pain in our lives, in our spirit, in God’s heart and forever with eternal separation if we don’t choose Him).
Joy Unspeakable are the words that God spoke into my spirit as I was praying yesterday. Although I am not totally sure what this will look like as it unfolds I know that as my intimacy with God increases, there is more room for joy to bubble up. How can we share what Jesus has done in our lives if we have no joy? How can we minister to the needs, hurts and interests of others as Jesus did when we are bound up in our own? Pastor Bobby Conway wrote The Fifth Gospel and he says that we are the fifth gospel. As Christians, we were left in this world for two reasons, to grow in the likeness of Christ and to share the message of Christ.
How do we accomplish this seeming conundrum of joy amidst suffering? We move our expectations from our suffering to our Saviour! Suffering provides us opportunity to show hope. If we can suffer well, we show the hope that is in Jesus eternally. Before this topic seems too heavy, also know this, “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” 2 Corinthians 4:17. I don’t dismiss at all that circumstances can seem too much to bear when you are under the weight of them but in the perspective of eternity, they are momentary. I have experienced suffering in many forms and I watch friends and family suffer in various ways. I have also suffered without the joy and hope of Christ before I knew Him and that is a dark place, one I never want to experience again. Suffering, especially watching others, breaks my heart often and have I been successful with joy unspeakable all the time? Definitely not, I would dare to say not often. As I mentioned before though it is my hearts desire as I learn to trust God more with orchestrating my life as He sees fit.
Now, how do we suffer well? Even typing that makes my flesh want to fight against it a bit! 1 Thessalonians 5:17,18,’Pray without ceasing, in EVERYTHING give thanks, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus’ Ephesians 5:20,’ ALWAYS giving thanks for ALL things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father.’ (emphasis mine) We give thanks and we keep our eyes on the eternal value of the trouble we may have to endure. Guarding our mouths is another way to suffer well, are you constantly complaining about your distress? Ephesians 4:29 says,’ Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up, according to their needs that it may benefit those who listen.’ My husband Wade was a perfect example of this last week as he thanked God for a disagreement we had and gave thanks for an opportunity to learn better for next time. This is not that we shouldn’t talk with someone about our trouble but to just be careful it does not become chronic and that we are retraining those thoughts coming in to find places of gratitude instead.
God has been highlighting Romans 8 for me this week and I encourage you to read the whole chapter. Today these verses jumped out at me, vs 15-17, ‘For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father”. The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs – heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.’ God wants to share His glory with us. Incredible. Lord even when we suck in our suffering? Absolutely! But it is easier when you can do it well and I receive more glory for what is worked through your joy unspeakable. And ps, it is not all about you…2 Corinthians 1:3-5, ”3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. 5 For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.”