“No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” (Hebrews 12:11)
A friend called and told me she was facing an enormous life challenge. She felt bad that she couldn’t feel any joy in it, and in fact, felt tremendous sorrow. “I’m not being Christ-like,” she wailed.
“What makes you think Christ would have been joyful in your circumstance?” I asked her.
“He was always joyful. He took His hardships in stride.” She said.
I opened the bible and asked her to read Matthew 26:38. Jesus said, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.” I asked her to read Mark 15:34. (On the cross, He cried out) “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” Jesus never taught us to deny our feelings when we are suffering. However, He did teach us that on the other side of suffering, joy and peace reside. (“for the joy that was set before him, he endured the cross” Heb.12: 2)
Joy is not to be found while we suffer. No, we wait. Patiently. Joy finally arrives. That’s the natural order of things; suffer, then joy. Hebrews.12: 11 reminds us “Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness.” If you are suffering today, know that it will end, and that joy and peace will be found, because you suffered.
There is only one way to cope with our trials and that is to face them head on. We ask God to walk with us through our “valley of the shadow of death.” We walk determined and strong. We know that like Jesus, it is the joy set before us, that keeps us strong in our endurance. When our trials have come to an end, we can look back and with great joy, and know that we walked with God and didn’t falter. We were polished by our trials. We can rejoice in joy for that! We know that all thing work to the good for those who love the Lord. (Romans 8:28) We can give thanks for all things, even for the trials that cause us to suffer. (1 Thessalonians 5:18)
F.R.O.G. Practice: Feel your sorrow but do not let it overwhelm you. Ask God to be with you. What do you think “the joy set before you” might be when your trails come to an end? Endure your trial with God’s help.