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Suffering for Joy

“You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” —Psalm 16:11

With so many Bible verses about finding our joy in the Lord, one might assume that life as a Christian is a one-way ticket to Easy Street. But not so fast, traveler. Following Jesus does not guarantee us a life of ease, endless smiles, and effortless laughter. In fact, those who commit their lives to following Jesus are promised persecution and suffering (1 Peter 2:21). With a promise like that, some may wonder if all this suffering is really worth it at all. The answer to that, of course, is YES! Why?

Suffering Reminds Us of Christ

Following Jesus means getting to know Him by walking in His shoes—or sandals as the case may be (1 Peter 5:8). No matter how difficult our journey feels at times, no one suffered more than Jesus. Misunderstood by His family, church leaders, and even His own disciples; Jesus was hunted, plotted against, lied about, cursed, spat upon, mocked, beaten, and brutally crucified. Worse yet, Jesus felt total separation from God, His Father, to whom He was always faithful, in order to pay the price for the sins of undeserving humans—which includes you and me. Jesus allows us to participate in the benefits of His sufferings, but never asks us to experience total separation from God (Matthew 6:25-34).

"Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith..." —Philippians 3:8-10

Suffering Grows Our Faith

When we suffer through trials and persecution, our own faith is grown as we witness God’s strength getting us through what we thought impossible to survive (Romans 5:3-4). He gives us hope in in seemingly hopeless situations and strength we do not possess on our own. One of the outcomes of these experiences is that we become equipped to shepherd others on their faith journeys as well. We can come alongside a suffering brother or sister and share our experiences of God getting us though our own challenges (1 Peter 5:1-4).

Suffering is Temporary

"And after you have suffered a little while, 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

God promises that all of our suffering and challenges are for our good and God’s glory. We grow in righteousness through our experiences in our earthly bodies, but one day we will be present with God in bodies that never fail us, where sin has been eradicated, where tears no longer fall, and all pain and uncertainty are banished (Revelation 21:4). What a day that will be!

How do we have more joy when following Jesus, especially during times of struggle and suffering?
  1. Continue to grow in relationship with God through daily Bible reading. This cannot be stressed enough. Reading for a few minutes a day makes a huge difference and reminds us of God’s kept promises and faithfulness (Psalm 119:130). Reading from Psalms, for me, is especially comforting. Try Psalm 91.
  2. Develop a robust prayer life. Talking to God about everything you are experiencing and feeling will help you better hear His voice and feel His assurances that you will face nothing alone. (John 10:27-28; 1 Corinthians 3:16)
  3. Keep a prayer/gratitude journal. Writing down your prayers can be very helpful in tracking God's work in your life. Before you know it, you'll be able to look back and trace God’s hand in all your circumstances. Building the evidence of God’s faithfulness in your journal will increase your faith, joy, and boldness as God leads you into some scary places. You will develop confidence and full knowledge that He will go before you and be with you through it all.
  4. Praise God for all of the good things He has done and is doing in your life. Praise God in all things—even those difficult situations that are molding you into the man or woman God created you to be (Psalm 28:7, 56:4).
  5. Find others to share your journey. Your local church can be a community of Christians in which you walk together to serve our one God. Fellowship, study, and friendships in Christ are an invaluable resource for every believer (1 Peter 5:12-14).
Joy in the Lord is a product of an intimate walk with Jesus...

...often through trials similar to those He faced during His earthly ministry. Learning to trust that Jesus can meet us at our difficulties in all circumstances reassures us that Christ cares. Embracing the fact that He will walk with us through everything we encounter in this life until we are at His feet in Heaven will give us confidence to face many trials.

It is at this junction of perspectives that we find the psalmist’s attitude: “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16:11).

—Rhonda

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By: Rhonda Maydwell

Rhonda is an author, wife, mother, and mentor. She graduated from the University of Missouri with a degree in English and Religious studies. She loves studying God’s Word for truth and wisdom and uses it as a compass and roadmap for her own spiritual journey. Rhonda believes in sharing the Good News and the hope found in Biblical truths with others. She uses her writing and mentoring opportunities (often with a pinch of humor) to do just that.

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