Jesus never promised that by choosing to follow Him, our lives would suddenly become easy and free of suffering. Actually, He promised the exact opposite. And the thing is, He tells us that we should find joy in that.
It seems strange to acknowledge that somehow.
Strange, but yet also, encouraging.
When my life is going good; when things around me are happy and easy, and I can feel God; when I can see Him and sense His presence around me, everything seems right.
I feel right.
It's very easy for me to find joy; to experience joy, in those times.
But when my life is filled with turmoil, and when the days come where everything just feels off; and hard; and I can’t feel His presence;
well then, I don’t feel right.
In those times, it feels impossible to find, and experience joy.
And in those times, I can forget that God is good.
Or maybe to be more precise, I forget that He is good to me;
I start to think that I'm not deserving of His goodness.
I start to think things like,
“If I’m feeling bad, it must be because I’ve done something bad."
"There must be sin in my life that has resulted in these discouraging feelings."
I begin to wonder if I have done something that has made God pull away from me.
That’s how my heart feels, and my mind thinks, sometimes.
But those thoughts and those feelings are not in accordance with God’s Word.
Let me be perfectly clear, here.
As human beings, not one of us is without sin. And when we sin, that results in a kind of barrier in our relationship with the Lord. Our sin incurs pain and suffering and turmoil, and because of it, we often experience a separation from God. When that happens, it is vital that we acknowledge and confess our sin before the Lord so that we can experience His forgiveness and remove the barrier that it has placed between us and God.
But what I'm saying is, not all of the turmoil we experience in life, is the result of sin.
You see, the Word of God tells us that we should be prepared for hard times; for suffering.
And even more than that, it tells us that when those hard times come, we should actually consider them with joy.
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds...
We should consider our trials as a reason for joy?
At first glance, I can see how this doesn’t make sense.
Why would we ever consider our struggles in life as a reason for joy?
But maybe if we dig a little deeper in the Word, we’ll see why.
The whole of the Gospel message is totally and completely centered around Jesus. In the Old Testament, everything points to Him. And in the New Testament, everything is about Him. Jesus, literally is, the Gospel. He was and is, the Messiah; the Savior; the Christ.
This name, Christ, comes from the Greek word Christos, and means “Anointed One” or “Chosen One.” It is actually where the term Christian comes from. We are essentially, little Christs; His chosen people. (Click here for more)
And here’s the thing. While Jesus Christ walked this earth, He suffered. The whole of His life pointed, and lead, directly to the cross.
He was ridiculed.
He knew what it what it was like to feel tired.
And to feel pain.
Jesus knew what suffering felt like.
And, if Jesus Christ suffered, how can we as little Christs not expect to suffer as well?
We can’t. Jesus actually tells us that in this this world we will have trouble.
But He doesn’t leave it there. He continues to exhort us to take heart, because He has overcome the world!
"In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” Jesus - John 16:33
He also says in Luke 6:22,23 The Message
“Count yourself blessed every time someone cuts you down or throws you out, every time someone smears or blackens your name to discredit me. What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and that that person is uncomfortable. You can be glad when that happens—skip like a lamb, if you like!—for even though they don’t like it, I do . . . and all heaven applauds. And know that you are in good company; my preachers and witnesses have always been treated like this."
Hardship in life isn’t always the result of sin. We often experience hardship because this world will persecute what it doesn’t want to acknowledge as Truth. The people of this world did not, and do not, want to acknowledge Jesus as Truth. So, it definitely will not want to acknowledge us as representatives of that Truth.
But, here is how we find joy in the struggle.
Jesus told us this would happen. We can find comfort in the knowledge that He told us to consider ourselves blessed whenever we suffer for His name because it means we are making people aware of the Truth of the Gospel and that it brings Him great joy.
1 Peter 1:6-9
In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
We struggle and suffer and experience many difficulties in this life. But we do not face them alone, nor without reason.
Jesus has promised never to leave us nor forsake us. The struggles we face here, prove to refine and purify our faith which Peter tells us is of greater worth than gold, and in the end, results in the salvation of our souls!
Is that not something to find joy in?