The last few months have been a challenge for me from a health standpoint. Between neural issues, continuous sinus infections, severe vitamin D deficiency, and now an attack of a-fib, it’s been the trial of my life. I’ve always been blessed with amazingly good health, so this is definitely a switch. I’m grateful for good medical care- and even more grateful for the Great Physician.
In my last post, I mentioned that I felt that the next movement in worship would be characterized by a fresh infusion of joy. (I differentiate joy from happiness for the sake of this article, as they are two separate, yet similar, states of mind). This three-letter word has been percolating in my brain through all of my personal struggles. It is really, really difficult to experience joy when things are going poorly. We tend to berate ourselves for our lack of faith, our inability to trust God, or our incapability to rest in Him.
I suppose that it’s human nature to struggle in those difficult times. I am reminded of the response of the Israelites when trapped between Pharaoh and the Red Sea. They complained bitterly to Moses. And then, God showed up! Once they crossed over to the other side, there was a wild celebration of joyous worship with Moses and Miriam leading the way. Like many throughout the Bible, they waited until God moved miraculously to worship and experience joy. It’s easy for us to judge their lack of faith, but not much in human nature has changed in the few thousand years since then.
In my recent contemplation regarding joy, the Lord has been bringing me back to Hebrews 2:9 and Hebrews 12:2. These are powerful passages that speak of Jesus’ ability to see joy on the other side of imminent, intense suffering:
But we do see Jesus…now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.
For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
The phrase “for the joy set before him” has always been strange to me. There was nothing joyful about the cross. It was a cruel death of shame reserved for the public humiliation of criminals. And yet, Jesus saw two things worth enduring the suffering. First, He knew that His death and resurrection were the only way to bring reconciliation of man to God. Second, He knew that it would mean the restoration of His rightful place in heaven.
In the garden of Gethsemane, He agonized over what He would suffer. The narrative portrays an intensely human moment in the life of Jesus. And yet, knowing the joy on the other side, He acquiesced to the Father’s will, and experienced fullness of joy in due time.
It is truly human to struggle with “feeling” joy during a trial. In those seasons, the challenge is to worship, to accept the will of God, and perhaps, also to engage in spiritual warfare. The sufferings that we face can be tempered by knowing that on the other side, there will be joy in the faithfulness of God to deliver. Ultimately, believers will experience complete joy at their death. It is the promise that we have from the Word- and the reason that we can call Good Friday, “Good.”