When it comes to experiencing joy in our lives, most of us think that joy and sorrow are mutually exclusive. You can’t experience joy when you’re under pressure or you’ve just lost someone you loved.
No, our thinking goes, joy is when you’re happy, not when you’re travelling through sadness or pain. But actually… is that right?
That’s what we’re going to unpack today: Is there a form of joy that persists through our pain and suffering? Because if there is, it could make a world of difference.
To find out, we need look no further than those dark, dangerous, fearful days leading up to Jesus’ crucifixion. His disciples must have been terrified… and Jesus tells them:
“I have said all these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.”
Jesus wanted His joy to fill them and to be complete in them, right smack-bang in the midst of their fear for their very lives.
Years later, the writer of the Book of Hebrews explains it to us:
“… let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.”
Now, that’s really interesting. It tells us that Jesus knew joy was coming – His glory in heaven – and that sustained Him through that indescribable experience of being nailed to a cross. Do you see it? It was joy that caused Jesus to endure the cross.
In the Old Testament Book of Nehemiah, we see how Israel was devastated when Ezra, the priest and the scribe, showed them how they’d strayed from God. But look at what Ezra said to them:
“… This day is holy to our Lord; don’t grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”
God’s joy, the joy of the Lord, is our strength.
His joy sustained the people through their grief. His joy sustained Jesus on the cross. And His joy can sustain you and me through all of life’s sadness, suffering, pain and loss.
So when trials come, when suffering comes, when temptations come, we have the strength to endure them. Not sulking, complaining, or running away, but facing them with thanksgiving, praise and joy.
This is God’s plan. Hallelujah!