|Overflowing with Joy|
Have you noticed after a natural disaster like a tornado, hurricane, or even a simple house fire, survivors make statements like, “Thank God we survived. Nothing else really matters.”
In the midst of total loss, people often find the silver lining. Jesus prayed the above prayer shortly before being arrested and crucified. Yet, in the midst of asking God to remove the cup of crucifixion from him, he also speaks of his joy. He longs for his disciples to have the full measure of his joy within them.
I’ve known many discontented people in my life, as well as a few contented folks. The stark contrast is those with little are unencumbered by this earthly life. They’re more likely to praise God for the little they have than to whine about the things they don’t have. Even when faced with more loss, or possible death, they find the words and joy to praise God.
Maybe the key is found in Jesus’ words. “…for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world.”
Striving to live by the world’s definition of success will rob you of Christ’s joy. Acquiring more “stuff” won’t fill the empty space intended to be filled with Christ. Embracing the cross of Christ means being able to praise God even when life circumstances scream at you not to.
A book I read many years ago, These Strange Ashes, by missionary Elisabeth Elliot, records her first missionary journey as a young single woman in 1952 into the jungles of Ecuador. Her work included devising a written alphabet so a written language could be established for the Colorado Indians. She spent nine months living among them in a primitive lifestyle. She entrusted a fellow missionary to return to the city with her work and then went to another part of the jungle to study the Quichua. A short time later, Elisabeth received a letter from the missionary informing her that the suitcase carrying all of her work had been stolen. This is an excerpt from the book:
I read the letter again and again. The filebox, the notebooks, the charts—all of it gone. All of it, of course, in my own handwriting. There were no copies of anything.
It was, after Maruja’s and Macario’s deaths, Lesson Three for me. Another experience of stripping. The tenth Psalm came to mind: “Why dost thou hide thyself in times of trouble?” And, as before, I heard no reply to that and other questions. There was no light, no echo, no possible explanation. All the questions as to the validity of my calling, or much more fundamental, God’s interest in the Colorados’ salvation, in any mission work—Bible translation or any other kind—all these questions came again to the fore.
To be a follower of the Crucified means, sooner or later, a personal encounter with the Cross. And the Cross always entails loss. The great symbol of Christianity means sacrifice and no one who calls himself a Christian can evade this stark fact…There is a certain reticence to infer that our little troubles may actually be the vehicles to bring us to God. Most of us simply grin and bear them, knowing they are the lot of all human beings, and our memories being marvelously selective, we simply cancel them out, none the better for the lessons we might have learned...
But there was nothing to be done about it at all, no hope of recovery, and that was that…It was only gradually during the months that followed that I saw that to God nothing is finally lost…Loss and death are only the preludes to gain and life…Faith, prayer, and obedience are our requirements. We are not offered in exchange immunity and exemption from the world’s woes. What we are offered has to do with another world altogether. (These Strange Ashes, 129-132)
Elisabeth married Jim Elliot in 1953, and moved deeper into the jungles to establish contact with the Auca Indians who’d never successfully mingled with outsiders. Jim and four other missionaries were killed by this tribe in 1956. Elisabeth, along with her toddler daughter and a few other wives, chose to stay and continue the work started by their husbands. They eventually succeeded in bringing Christianity to the Auca Indians.
It’s our choice to give into despair or choose joy when faced with hardship. Joy tells you, no matter what, God is there. He cares. He will provide.
What bitter trial are you experiencing? If you’d like prayer, please leave a comment or e-mail me confidential requests. If you’ve walked through a trial and would like to offer encouragement for others, please feel free to share that, as well. I’d love to hear from you.
The permanent prayer list is at the top of the page, along with information on Sgt. Jesse McCart, an American soldier injured in an IED attack in Afghanistan last summer. Would you take a moment to lift them up in prayer? Thanks!
Our worship song is performed by MercyMe, "You Are I Am." It's a beautiful song! I hope you're blessed by their message.
©Laura Hodges Poole