Monday, September 29, 2014

Choosing Joy...Even When You're Not
Two weeks ago, I scooted too quickly around the gathering table to help child #2 with his homework.   In the process, I kicked the table leg and had to pause to let the pain pass before moving on.  Like most mothers, I gave it little thought, especially since my bare feet are forever kicking something in a three-child household.  This was no big deal, right? 

Wrong.  A few days later, the toe began to swell until the nail was ringed in red and it had its own separate heartbeat.  Apparently, I had gotten a cut when I hit the table leg's sharp edge, an invisible invitation welcoming infection inside until it grew into a blister under the nail.

A needle relieved the pressure, and Nurse Allison said it should get better.  But there was one caveat--no running until it healed.  That evening, I grumbled to God about how unfair this newest trial was, especially since I was in the midst of training for the half marathon in January, something I was certain He told me to do. Did He really expect me to walk the whole thing!?

James 1 tells believers to "Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing" (v. 2-4).

But how does a Christian count all life's trials as pure joy  when they certainly don't feel like joy?  In fact, often, those are really painful, life-changing, kick-you-face-down-in-the-dust trials?

HOW does a person count those "all joy"?

The answer can be found back in Isaiah, in a prophecy about Messiah and how he would be put to death on a cross.  The prophet says, "But the Lord was pleased to crush Him, putting Him to grief; If He would render Himself as a guilt offering, He will see His offspring, He will prolong His days, And the good pleasure of the Lord will prosper in His hand. " (Is. 53: 10). 

In the above verse, the word "pleased" or "chaphets" means "to take pleasure in; to delight in*"  Likewise, the words "good pleasure" come from that same root word and mean the same thing: "delight, pleasure, ...that in which one takes delight"*

This idea of taking delight in something is the same thing as James' counting it all joy.

The two words show that God the Father was pleased, was delighting, was counting it all joy when Jesus was pierced, was beaten, was suspended on a cross between heaven and earth.  He was taking delight and joy when Messiah's soul that had known no sin was burdened down with the sin of the entire world, became sin itself, thereby separating Jesus from God the Father. 

How could God do this? As a mother, in my flesh, I can't comprehend how a Father could delight in His son's physical and spiritual suffering, His son's anguish as it says in verse 11?

And yet, the answer lies in the next verse, explaining how we as believers can count our trials as a delightful joy as well.  

Isaiah writes, "As a result of the anguish of His soul, He will see it and be satisfied; By His knowledge the Righteous One, My Servant, will justify the many, As He will bear their iniquities" (Is. 53:11).

The Father could count His Son's suffering all joy because He knew what was coming as a result of that trial, of that suffering and anguish.  Because Jesus submitted Himself to the Father, because He chose to endure the trial, chose the cross, chose to take on our sins, we believers would have the opportunity to be justified through Him and, ultimately, to be reconciled to God.

It's not that the trial, itself, was a joy.  Anyone who has seen Mel Gibson's Passion of the Christ could attest to this...and that's only the level of anguish we mortals can imagine.  Yet, what God had planned through that trial--the redemption of His children--was joy.

This should tell us a good bit about trials in our lives.  They may not feel joyful to endure. They may be the hardest thing we've ever endured. And yet, we can count it all joy because of what God is going to do both through that trial and on the other side of that trial.  

We believers must learn to look beyond the moment, beyond the trial, to what God is accomplishing through them.  It could be that the trial will lead to God doing something wonderful in our lives.  Even more humbling, though, it could be that our counting it joy through the trial will lead to God doing a work of salvation in someone else's life.

*Strong's Concordance Online
 Image: from Tutorials for Crafty Hands.  Tammy Tutterow is truly amazing and gifted.

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