The one tremendous catalyst for joy in the life of a follower of Jesus is the realization that the very things in our lives that seem to hold only bitterness and defeat for us happen to be the very things that ignite incredible victory and joy.
From disease to financial ruin, from divorce to death itself, we find that in the very moment that despair would close its gaping jaws upon us to swallow us whole, the long arm of God reaches in with hope, love and power.
That is not to say that we won’t suffer grief in the short term as loss or rejection assail us, but rather that we discover in Christ a shining light that loss and hurt can only cloud over for a season. There will be a time in which our trust in God is thoroughly vindicated one way or another.
Take, for example, those whose lives have been drastically impacted by the recent flooding in West Virginia. Loss of home, loss of income, and loss of life came unexpectedly as flood waters that rose in terrifying proportions roared through unsuspecting communities. The devastation wrought by them is far from being calculable. And while prospects for rebuilding are high in the long-term, our neighbors there are struggling right now to just get by.
Still, such tragedy and loss, while grievous indeed, are also windows to living acts of grace that show what Christ-like love looks like in real-life ways. People there who have lost much still find time to give much. Communities untouched personally are reaching out with love, making such sacrifices as they can in resources and volunteering time and hard work.
Such is love. It is not an emotion so much as it is a determination to help others whose needs are real and whose pain is great. We have friends who in live in these afflicted areas who report that Believers from all over have mobilized to assist these in need. They tell of people whose loving efforts vividly portray a God Who is Himself on mission and Who exemplifies love through His Son, Jesus Christ, Who came to help us in our great need: deliverance from the power and penalty of sin!
These who today are working to help others without regard to the cost involved are “mini pictures” of God’s grace towards us and remind us that some of the most beautiful and amazing things in life are things we could never know had there been no pain, sorrow or loss.
This is why God’s promise for Christians (people who have repented and turned in faith to Jesus Christ) is such a tremendously powerful word for us in whatever trial we may face or season in which we struggle to survive. “We know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28 ESV).
So if you have found yourself in trouble, a place of sadness or hurt, acknowledge that trouble, sadness or hurt, but then look beyond it to the God Who delivers and heals, lifts up and restores. Disease can only affect us for as long as we are housed in these earthly bodies, but cannot touch the heavenly and eternal one being prepared for us (1 Thessalonians 4:14-18). Financial ruin and the subsequent struggle to survive materially teach us to depend on the God Who looks after the grasses of the field and the birds of the air (Matthew 6:25-34). Divorce may split our hearts in two, but God Himself binds up the brokenhearted (Psalm 147:3). Death may rob us of those we love, but death for the Christian is only a momentary parting which is nullified in the sweet reunion of God’s saints in a heavenly home that awaits us in His perfect presence (John 14:1-3).
All of this is strategically vital for us to recall as we press onward in our journey of faith through this world which is hostile towards God and resentful of the hope that we have in Jesus. We must both recall the hope we have in Christ and also encourage each other with the assurances of God’s sovereign love and His divine commitment to uphold us and keep us safe for eternity. If it were not so, we could hardly call Him our “Heavenly Father”.
As it is, we have a God Who is not only working in our lives, but will continue to work in us, through us, and for us a divine plan of blessing that we can scarcely comprehend or imagine. He is the God Who brings life out of death, healing from hurt, and hope over despair. So be encouraged and see to it that you in turn encourage others with the hope that sustains you.
“You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; You have loosed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness, that my glory may sing Your praise and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give thanks to You forever!” (Psalm 30:11-12 ESV).
Pastor Thom Mollohan leads Pathway Community Church and may be reached for comments or questions by email at [email protected]