For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes? Is it not you? Indeed, you are our glory and joy. We sent Timothy, who is our brother and God’s fellow worker in spreading the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you in your faith, so that no one would be unsettled by these trials. You know quite well that we were destined for them.
I Thessalonians 2:19-20; 3:2
As I poured my second cup of coffee, my girlfriend and I also poured out our hearts to one another. We had each been through a month of trials that felt as if they would take us down emotionally, physically and spiritually.
My husband, a Viet Nam veteran, and I had looked forward to a much needed R & R at a military ministry conference in New York. Two days before we were to leave, however, my ninety-four-year-old mom was hospitalized. Other problems and stresses began to bombard us from all sides. Instead of “let the vacation begin!”, it became “let the trials begin!”. My friend and I pondered how we as Christians should respond. How in the world do we have joy-much less pure joy (James 1:2) in the midst of disappointment, grief, sorrow and trials? Here are three answers to consider:
1. Joy is something deeper than a temporary feeling of happiness. God sometimes allows trials into our lives to test us. As we persevere through them, God is with us. He comforts, He guides, He is our Rock. He is even our hiding place. He gives us the strength needed for each new day.
2. Just as Paul had sent Timothy to strengthen and encourage the believers going through trials, he sends encouragers into our lives as well. This day, He had sent my girlfriend!
3. Joy is not something we get from outward circumstances. It was the joy “set before him” that allowed Jesus to endure the Cross (Hebrews 12:2). Real joy will also be other centered, rather than focused on self. The very people He sends us out to encourage and strengthen in the faith are the ones who will be the source of our joy when we see them in heaven some day.
As I peered back over my shoulder at the recent trials of my life, I saw something I didn’t expect . . . a prayer answered here, a glimmer of hope there, a new friend, a sweet time with my Mom . . . quiet moments to treasure. Sometimes it is after the storm that God reveals the rainbows of joy hidden in the trials themselves.
Where is there joy in my current situation?
Who can I encourage and strengthen today as they are going through trials?
Lord, thank you for the joy you have given me deep within my heart. Show me how to persevere through trials of this day. Help me to remember that the joy of the Lord is my strength. Speak to me personally through your Word this day. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.