That sounds like an oxymoron! But I have discovered that joy and pain can coexist.
I’ve written and spoken about it many times (and so have many others). It is one of the main messages God has me repeatedly proclaim since the loss of my soulmate over 13 years ago.
However, if I’m honest, I still struggle. I still have a hard time with passages like:
Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds. (Jas 1:2)
And Paul’s declaration:
I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Cor 12:10)
I’ve come a long way, but I’m not quite there yet! But I want to be.
This is not something any of us can do in our own power. Only God can miraculously change our hearts!
Do I really believe that God can actually change my heart to delight in my suffering? This heart, this person, this emotional yoyo who loves to feel happy all the time? Do I believe enough to act like it’s true (=faith)?
If I look back at the countless times I’ve asked the Lord to change my heart about different things—like forgiving a betrayal, sacrificially giving up my life to take care of my mom…), I can see how He came through; how He completely transformed my heart. That means I can trust God to answer this prayer of learning to delight in my suffering as well.
God always answers prayers that are in line with His desires.
Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart. (Ps 37:4)
That being said, you and I can’t just pray this and expect God to magically wave His wand and change us overnight. He needs us to cooperate with Him in this humongous endeavor!
So how can we learn to delight in our suffering?
Delighting in God Himself
Our joy is in the Person of Christ (countless verses Ps 16:11; Jn 15:5,11; 1 Pet 1:8). [More on this next time.]
Delighting in His Word
If your law had not been my delight, I would have perished in my affliction. (Ps 119:92)
Delighting in what God has done
We can rejoice in God’s past faithfulness to us.
Let them offer sacrifices of thanksgiving and sing joyfully about his glorious acts. (Ps 107:22, see also Ps 92:4-5)
Delighting in what God will do
God is not asking us to like or enjoy our current suffering. He’s not asking us to say that it is good. Sin is NOT good, cancer is NOT good. But God can use it for good! (Rom 8:28)
By faith, we can delight in the eternal fruit God is producing through our suffering. Jesus wasn’t happy about the intense physical and spiritual pain He suffered on the cross. NO!
He endured the cross for the joy set before Him—the future joy of redeeming mankind from hell (Heb 12:2).
Delighting that our submission pleases God
Jesus pleased the Father in every way and in everything. Surely, He knew fulfilling His Father’s will on the cross pleased and glorified Him.
I would imagine that these last two points is what kept Jesus from coming down off that agonizing cross (because He had the power to do so—see Jn 10:18).
We too can follow His example.
If you and I dwell on our love for God—of pleasing the One we love, we can by faith delight in our sufferings.
Because I love God, I want Him to experience joy in me, His daughter. I want Him to be pleased with my response to willingly yield to the hardships which He has allowed—hardships that are producing a harvest of righteousness and peace for those trained by them (Heb 12:11).
My friend, will you join me by asking God for these eyes of faith so that, together, we can learn how to delight in our suffering? The more of you who do, the more glory God will get. And knowing that, is something you and I can rejoice in now!
Lord, give us these eyes of faith!
How to Deal with Pain God’s Way—Part 3: Joy Despite Pain
Finding Joy in Sacrifice
His Joy Will Be My Joy
What Does the Joy of the Lord is My Strength Mean?
Are You in a Pit—Perishing in Your Affliction?
Book: Trust God MORE: The Development of Belief, Faith and Trust
All Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible: New International Version®. NIV. ® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.