A Certain Kind of Joy

Photo Credit: Kim Clayton Lance

There is a certain kind of joy that can occur when we endure an impossibly hard season. Be it a pandemic, a terminal diagnosis, a death, shattered bones, infertility, betrayal by a spouse or friend or colleague, loss of employment, or persecution because of our faith, we can still experience the unique! Joy. If we know Jesus as Lord, in particular.

I’m not talking about happiness. This joy is more about confidence. It is more about hope being fixed on what is unseen, what is coming, what is promised. It is more about security in eternal terms. No way will we be happy about what we are enduring in the now. But we can be happy that God is lovingly showing us whether or not our faith is genuine. Fire turned up on high. Dross burned off. Hindrances vaporized. What’s left? Strong faith.

There is JOY IN THE SHOWING. I Peter 1:6-7 (NASB) says, “In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” This proof reveals lives miraculously transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit. This evidence lets us know where truth faith is bubbling up.

There is JOY IN THE SEEING. God already knows the status of our faith. Weak or strong, marginal or steadfast. He already knows. The testing happens so that we can know it ourselves or that others can see the real live picture of Christ’s character in us. God sometimes uses the disastrous to thread perseverance through our lives. To make us dependent on Him. To make meaningful our wrestling. To prevent us from abandoning hope. To make us like Him.

Too, I have noticed that in Christ, one kind of suffering prepares us for the next season of suffering. When I replay God’s faithfulness and provision in the former seasons of my life, even if waiting on Him seemed endless (and it always does), I know His strength for the next season is accessible. This is a repeated revelation for me but, in one faith experiment I learned that I had a self-sufficiency problem. This was when I broke my upper right arm (after a trip and fall in CW). And yes, I am right-handed. I clearly saw the dross God wanted to remove. The testing of my faith was not wasted on that painful healing process! God exposed my dependence on myself and it definitely needed to be taken down a few notches.

There is JOY IN THE KNOWING. Settle assurance. I can make sense of my pain when my faith is being purified by my suffering. God allows it and God uses it. Like childbirth, I can even call pain productive. But, only if the process forces me to focus on the age to come instead of the temporal “sparks flying upward” (Job 5:7) life here on planet earth. I must see the unseen to be weaned away from obsession with the earthly. My heart must be lifted to unseen glories. Kate Warren defines joy this way: “Joy is the settled assurance that God is in control of all the details of my life, the quiet confidence that ultimately everything is going to be all right, and the determined choice to praise God in all things.” Unseen glories. Still learning this lesson…

Romans 5:3-5 (NASB) says, “And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God have been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”

In this, there is a certain kind of joy.

The Other Side

IMG_0187

“Calgon, take me away!” was a slogan made memorable in a 1978 Calgon Bath Powder commercial. If only a bath powder could transport us out of our daily circumstances and into the soothing warmth of a heavenly hot bath! The “other side” is what our hearts long for when life’s heaviness becomes too much.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-2 says, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot…” The hardships of life are “a given;” however, the ability to wait on the Lord’s timing and to persevere through circumstances is not “a given.” For that ability, we need the Holy Spirit to enable us, assuming we are His believing children.

Sweet roses (lots of them) on Valentine’s Day took me briefly to the “other side” as a much-needed excursion from the worries and concerns of the last 6 months. Within my family, an array of circumstances unfolded ranging from kidney stones, dental and orthopedic surgery, failing vision, airline delays, a mild stroke, melanoma, a newly widowed friend, and another friend’s pancreatic cancer diagnosis. The roses reminded me of the best blessings in life, not the least of which is a thoughtful husband. Definitely the “other side!”

In this brief 6 months, though, we will also welcome a 6th grandchild into the world! We will celebrate an 89th birthday! We will celebrate a 6th birthday! We will see two more babies born to my nieces before summer is finished. There is always the “other side.” And, a time to be born.

Through all circumstances, I am grateful to be able to claim Psalm 34:4: “I sought the Lord, and He answered me; He delivered me from all my fears.” I certainly have a few fears these days as I prayerfully contemplate the “other side.” I hate flying, but I have to do it if I want to get to certain destinations (other sides). I dread having my thoughts consumed by coronavirus panic. But, I do live in this world. I’m tenuous about aging and figure it will take significant courage to get older and do it well. Nevertheless, time marches on. Aging happens. My attention is absorbed by difficult things. I am saddened by the self-centric evils and obsessions of our culture. But, as my personal list of fears gets longer, I never stop looking ahead with hope. I know the reality of Psalm 34:5: “Those who look to Him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame.” Calgon radiant. Secure. Hopeful. Transformed. Transported in spirit to the “other side.”

Hope is full and green on the “other side,” where trust finds its home in Jesus Christ. Nothing compares to God and His glory and His mighty control over all plans and plots and circumstances on this planet. The “other side” is the great promise for those who can say Psalm 33:20-22: “We wait in hope for the Lord; He is our help and our shield. In Him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in His holy name. May Your unfailing love rest upon us, O Lord, even as we put our hope in You.”

As a believer, I already have a heavenly inheritance on the “other side.” Now is my temporary season to be a resident alien on earth, accepting its hardships, but trusting the Creator. While my eyes are fixed intently on that “other side,” I will enjoy the red roses of God’s daily mercies and grace, the sweet fragrance of enjoyment with God’s people, and the beauty of family and friends – all the valentines of my life made possible by God’s love.