Tuesday, March 5, 2013

The Full Measure of Joy

Overflowing with Joy
"I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them.  I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world.  My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one… Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.  As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world.  For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified." ~Jesus (John 17:13-19)

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 J

©Laura Hodges Poole


  1. Thank you for sharing this wonderful message! I'm studying "joy" this week in my Bible study. I've lived without it and it's not a good place to be. God continues to show me true joy is only found in Him.

    1. You're welcome, Cindy. Thanks for stopping by. I'm so glad you discovered true joy. God bless you.

  2. Laura, what a lovely post and message. I met Elizabeth Elliot at a Homeschool conference years ago. I will never forget how she made me laugh. The subject was frugality. One of the speakers talked about saving and recycling. When it was Elizabeth's turn to speak, she said, "Ladies, just how many wire bread ties do you need?" So funny. She then spoke to us about moderation.

    1. Thanks, Jody. I'm glad you enjoyed it. What an incredible blessing it must have been to see Elisabeth in person! I used to listen to her on the radio each day. I can imagine her saying that. She seemed to have a wonderful sense of humor. Thanks for sharing your story.

  3. I would love to meet Elizabeth Elliott. I have been to the Ecuadorian jungle and I have worshipped with the Quichua people. I believe that living in Ecuador as long as she did and knowing Christ made her the beautiful light that we all enjoy. Great thoughts here, Laura!

    1. Thanks, Tereasa. I'm glad you enjoyed the post. Sounds like you have an amazing story to tell with your experiences, as well. I'd love to hear about them. God bless. Thanks for stopping by.

  4. I have generally been one to praise God in the midst of a trial. But have recently been through one that had me bitter and struggling to find the joy. As I am slowly tiptoeing out of the trial I am finding the joy coming on little by little. Oh how I wish I had seen it in the middle of all the yuck! How much more could God have been glorified in that way?! Thank you for sharing this!

    1. You're welcome. I agree that it's difficult to find joy when you're struggling so hard to survive a trial. I've found that God's joy is the only thing that gets me through sometimes. I'm glad you're coming out of your trial, and God is right there with you. Thanks for stopping by and sharing! God bless.

  5. Laura, what an amazing post! A few years ago I felt God prompting me to study Job as I was learning about contentment. Job said, "when He has tested me, I shall come forth as gold" (Job 23:10). That one line, coupled with the fact that Jesus KNEW He had to suffer, has provided me with such a different perspective in the trials. Not that I do it perfectly, but I don't kick and scream as much as I used to!

    1. Thanks, Stacy! I'm glad you enjoyed the post. Trials are difficult, and I don't like them any more than anyone else does. Yes, it's hard not to kick and scream, but once I discovered the comfort God provides when we allow it, the journey is often not as bad. I love the book of Job! Through reading it, I discovered it's possible to have joy during hard times. In chapter 38, when God answers Job, that's when I finally grasped the greatness of God and that I really have no business questioning his plans for me. It was an eye opener. Thanks so much for stopping by. God bless you.

  6. Hi Laura,
    I loved your post and encouragement on joy!
    I found you on Faith Filled Fridays!