What Makes It Possible for the Christian to Rejoice in the Midst of Pain and Anxiety?

Today I’m sharing from the Ligonier blog.

 

What Makes It Possible for the Christian to Rejoice in the Midst of Pain and Anxiety?

From R.C. Sproul

In 1993, my wife and I were involved in an historic train wreck. The crash of the Sunset Limited into an inlet from Mobile Bay killed more passengers than any Amtrak accident in history. We survived that eerie accident but not without ongoing trauma. The wreck left my wife with an ongoing anxiety about being able to sleep on a train at night. The wreck left me with a back injury that took fifteen years of treatment and therapy to overcome. Nevertheless, with these scars from the trauma we both learned a profound lesson about the providence of God. Clearly, God’s providence in this case for us was one of benign benevolence. It also illustrated to us an unforgettable sense of the tender mercies of God. In as much as we are convinced that God’s providence is an expression of His absolute sovereignty over all things, I would think that a logical conclusion from such a conviction would be the end of all anxiety.

However, that is not always the case. Of course, our Lord Himself gave the instruction to be anxious for nothing to His disciples and, by extension, to the church. His awareness of human frailties expressed in our fears was manifested by His most common greeting to His friends: “Fear not.” Still, we are creatures who, in spite of our faith, are given to anxiety and at times even to melancholy.

As a young student and young Christian, I struggled with melancholy and sought the counsel of one of my mentors. As I related my struggles, he said, “You are experiencing the heavy hand of the Lord on your shoulder right now.” I had never considered God’s hand being one that gave downward pressure on my shoulder or that would cause me to struggle in this way. I was driven to prayer that the Lord would remove His heavy hand from my shoulder. In time, He did that and delivered me from melancholy and a large degree of anxiety.

On another occasion I was in a discussion with a friend, and I related to him some of the fears that were plaguing me. He said, “I thought you believed in the sovereignty of God.” “I do,” I said, “and that’s my problem.” He was puzzled by the answer, and I explained that I know enough about what the Bible teaches of God’s providence and of His sovereignty to know that sometimes God’s sovereign providence involves suffering and affliction for His people. That we are in the care of a sovereign God whose providence is benevolent does not exclude the possibility that He may send us into periods of trials and tribulations that can be excruciatingly painful. Though I trust God’s Word that in the midst of such experiences He will give to me the comfort of His presence and the certainty of my final deliverance into glory, in the meantime I know that the way of affliction and pain may be difficult to bear.

Read the rest here.

Oh the Deep, Deep Joy of Jesus

Sharing today from Desiring God.

Oh the Deep, Deep Joy of Jesus

What sustained the man of sorrows

By David Mathis

Man of Sorrows. What a name.

Isaiah penned some of the most memorable lines in all the Bible when he prophesied about God’s coming “suffering servant”:

He was despised and rejected by men,
a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. (Isaiah 53:3)

We know from the New Testament, and the realizing of Isaiah’s words 700 years later, that this suffering servant would be not only the promised Messiah, but God himself — God’s own Son, come to rescue his people, by receiving in himself the justice they deserved. How can God himself, the happiest being in the universe, not only become man, but “a man of sorrows”?

Isaiah’s next words give the answer: “Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows” (Isaiah 53:4). He bore our griefs. He carried our sorrows. In his mission to save us, he entered not only into our flesh and blood but into our sorrows. And yet, even as prescient and memorable as Isaiah’s prophecy is, nowhere does the New Testament refer to Jesus as “man of sorrows.” Yes, he carried our sorrows, and he even had his own, but he was so much more than a man of sorrows. Fundamentally, he was a man of something much stronger.

Sustained in Sorrow

Jesus could not have borne our griefs and carried our sorrows had he not been buoyed by something deeper and more enduring. Imagine what emotional strength it must have taken to fulfill the words of Isaiah 50:6:

I gave my back to those who strike,
and my cheeks to those who pull out the beard;
I hid not my face
from disgrace and spitting.

Did he ever taste sorrow. He entered into our sin-haunted environment and felt our infirmities, making himself able to sympathize with our weaknesses (Hebrews 4:15). He spoke a blessing to those who mourn and weep (Matthew 5:4; Luke 6:21). At the tomb of his friend, “he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled” (John 11:33). He wept (John 11:35). Then he was “deeply moved again” (John 11:38).

How was he sustained in the sorrows he encountered, not just in the course of normal human life, but in the unique steps he took as the suffering servant?

Deep, Habitual Joy

The surprising testimony of the Gospels is that Jesus was a man of unparalleled and unshakeable joy. “A joyless life would have been a sinful life,” writes Donald Macleod, “Jesus experienced deep, habitual joy” (Person of Christ, 171). While the Gospels focus on the objective, external aspects of his ministry, we do get a few precious peeks.

Read the rest here.

Experiencing Happiness in Christ, Even Through Depression and Sorrow

Experiencing Happiness in Christ,
Even Through Depression and Sorrow

By Randy Alcorn

The following is a recent interview I did on the topic of happiness. I appreciated being able to address how someone who is depressed can still move toward experiencing a deep happiness and joy in Christ, which is a question I’ve been asked about frequently since my book was released.

Question:  When you look at happiness, is there a distinction between joy and happiness?

Randy: Interestingly, this has been taught as if it were fact for many years, and there have been many sermons that say joy and happiness are two different things. But we get them both wrong, because people end up saying things like “Joy is not an emotion” and “Joy is not really based on anything; it‘s some transcendental, vague sort of thing. But don‘t seek happiness, because that‘s from the world, and involves sin.”

Well, a lot of people do seek happiness in sin, just like they seek joy in sin. But God is the true source of happiness, delight, and joy. In my study for Happiness, I went back to the Hebrew and Greek words and saw how there are many of them that are translated in various versions as “joy,” “gladness,” “merriment,” “happiness,” “delight,” “pleasure.” These words all have overlapping meanings. Ninety percent of a Hebrew word that‘s translated “joy” overlaps with one that‘s translated “gladness” or “happiness.” (I’m including here a diagram from Happiness, illustrating this.)

There’s been a false and negative distinction that‘s been made between joy and happiness. Unfortunately, the message we send to those both inside and outside the church is, “Seeking happiness is superficial and shallow. Go out and get it in the world, but you won’t find happiness in God.” But all people seek happiness, and because they do, we’re basically telling them, “Stop seeking what God Himself wired you to seek.” What we should be saying is, “Seek your happiness in the right place—in God Himself.”

Read the rest here.


Shared by permission of Randy Alcorn, Eternal Perspective Ministries, 39085 Pioneer Blvd., Suite 206, Sandy, OR 97055, 503-668-5200, www.epm.org

Sorrowful Yet Always #REJOICING

As you know, my theme this year is all about JOY. When I read the following in my daily Streams in the Desert devotional recently, I knew I must share it with you. It is wonderful!

2Cor-6-10--AMP

 

…sorrowful, yet always REJOICING.
—2 Corinthians 6:10

SORROW was beautiful, but his beauty was the beauty of the moonlight shining through the leafy branches of the trees in the woods. His gentle light made little pools of silver here and there on the soft green moss of the forest floor. And when he sang, his song was like the low, sweet calls of the nightingale, and in his eyes was the unexpectant gaze of someone who has ceased to look for coming GLADNESS. He could weep in tender sympathy with those who weep, but to REJOICE with those who REJOICE was unknown to him.

JOY was beautiful, too, but hers was the radiant beauty of a summer morning. Her eyes still held the HAPPY laughter of childhood, and her hair glistened with the sunshine’s kiss. When she sang, her voice soared upward like a skylark’s, and her steps were the march of a conqueror who has never known defeat. She could REJOICE with anyone who REJOICES, but to weep with those who weep was unknown to her.

SORROW longingly said, “We can never be united as one.”

“No, never,” responded JOY, with eyes misting as she spoke, “for my path lies through the sunlit meadows, the sweetest roses bloom when I arrive, and songbirds await my coming to sing their most JOYOUS melodies.”

“Yes, and my path,” said SORROW, turning slowly away, “leads through the dark forest, and moonflowers, which open only at night, will fill my hands. Yet the sweetest of all earthly songs—the love song of the night—will be mine. So farewell, dear JOY,  farewell.”

Yet even as SORROW spoke, he and JOY became aware of someone standing beside them. In spite of the dim light, they sensed a kingly Presence, and suddenly a great and holy awe overwhelmed them. They then sank to their knees before Him.

“I see Him as the King of JOY,” whispered SORROW, “for on His head are many crowns, and the nailprints in His hands and feet are the scars of a great victory. And before Him all my SORROW is melting away into deathless love and GLADNESS. I now give myself to Him forever.”

“No, SORROW,” said JOY softly, “for I see Him as the King of SORROW, and the crown on His head is a crown of thorns, and the nailprints in His hands and feet are the scars of terrible agony. I also give myself to Him forever, for SORROW with Him must be sweeter than any JOY I have ever known.”

“Then we are one in Him,” they cried in GLADNESS, “for no one but He could unite JOY and SORROW.” Therefore they walked hand in hand into the world, to follow Him through storms and sunshine, through winter’s severe cold and the warmth of summer’s GLADNESS, and to be “SORROWFUL, yet always REJOICING.”

All emphasis mine

Copyright © 1997. Streams in the Desert, by L. B. CowmanZondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49530

The Story of Joy and Sorrow

Reblogged from Lynn Mosher: Encouraging the Heart-Uplifting the Soul.

This wonderful post from my bloggy friend, Lynn Mosher, goes along with my JOY and FAITH themes this year. Lynn has a special way of making a story come alive, and I know you’ll appreciate this as much as I do.

Thank you, Lynn, for allowing me to share this with my readers.

The Story of Joy and Sorrow

Photo credit: Lynn Mosher

Photo credit: Lynn Mosher

Once upon a time, twin sisters, Joy and Sorrow, lived in the same house with their Father, whose name was Comfort.

Joy skipped along her way enjoying every moment, savoring the sights and sounds of her everyday life, as her heart overflowed with praise and thanksgiving to her Father.

Sorrow, on the other hand, was somewhat defiant, rebelling against her Father, grumbling because of the pain in her life.

Nevertheless, they both experienced the same trials and heartaches, and yet, they each went about their day singing a different tune.

Read the rest here.

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