“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:1-2
When I begin to think that nobody can understand the suffering I’m in, I must remind myself that I am not the first one who has suffered. Neither am I suffering to the extent of others before me nor others who are also currently suffering. Everyone suffers from something at some point of their life. It’s inevitable.
In a book of conversations by Brother Lawrence, he says something about suffering that rattled my mind anew. In summary, he declares his surprise over how there isn’t more suffering the world. Considering the weight of sin and power of evil still lurking on earth, he thinks there should be greater levels of suffering than there actually is. At the same time, he bothers to not be concerned over the existing suffering with knowledge that God could change everything in an instant.
What an incredible reminder to those who are suffering. There could be more – there SHOULD be more- suffering. But no. For we walk in the kingdom of an alive and gracious God who chose to rescue us from life void of love, compassion, and miracles. Instead he brought us into a family of forgiveness, mercy, and hope.
The Way to this Kingdom has suffered what no one ever will. A Father sending his Son into the gloomy depths of an excruciating death, betrayed by those he came to save. Yet he fought for us, conquering hell’s grip over our lives by paying the price we ourselves would have otherwise paid.
Hebrews said it was “for the joy set before him.” Jesus walked willingly towards that suffering cross- with JOY.
I’m guessing the joy Jesus had was no ordinary joy. In light of our salvation, Jesus decides to give us his joy too!
“These things I have spoken to you that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” John 15:11
These things were his revelations to his disciples. His revelations of Joy. What did he say was the key to obtaining this joy? Remaining in the love of the Father.
But how do I do this in suffering? I don’t have the superpowers Jesus had… Ah, but I do.
And so did those who suffered before me.
“When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.” John 16:13-15
Paul, in prison, could’ve allowed depression to sink in. He was basically cut-off from all physical ministry. Physically speaking, I can relate. Me, chained to my home due to illness; Paul, chained to his home due to persecution. I’m sure he was suffering from injuries due to countless beatings as well.
Being in such an exhausted state, the lies decided to take my chains as prime opportunity to attack….
What a waste. You’re not an asset to Gods Kingdom laying sick in bed at home. God can’t use you here. You’re worthless….
I can imagine Paul wrestled with those lies as well.
How did he overcome his suffering? How did he shut out the discouraging circumstances? Through praise and worship, Paul creatively served his booming young churches by writing effective letters that all believers are still encouraged by in Scripture today. He gives credit to his writings as inspired by the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 9).
What did I do that was Holy Spirit inspired? Every ounce of strength, every period of relief, by God’s grace I would offer up meager thanks and praise. Did it result in literature that changed the history of the early church? No. But it resulted in the changing of my heart. The lies no longer taunted me when focusing solely on Gods presence. By remaining in his love, yes, I received the freeing
GIFT OF JOY.
As I practiced being in His presence while experiencing pain, I gained a cheerful stamina. Once I even fooled my husband, who saw my happy demeanor and asked if I felt better. “Nope. My head is pounding and I feel nauseous and dizzy, but, I found Jesus’s Joy!”
The key: to always, ALWAYS remain in the love of the Father.