Came across this tweet yesterday from a soon-to-be-released book by author K.J. Ramsey:
I wonder how much less anguish we would experience in suffering if the church treated suffering like a story to tell rather than a secret to keep until it passes.
Then this morning our pastor, while focusing on Jesus’ coming to experience human life, categorized suffering into three types:
- Suffering we can avoid
- Suffering we cannot avoid
- Suffering we must not avoid
Both of these thoughts need sharing and dialoguing.
There is power is sharing how our choices led us to suffering we could have avoided. Our focus can be directed to the truth of scripture and the forgiving, unconditional love Jesus came to bring.
There is healing in accepting how circumstances out of our control don’t go unnoticed by God. Our focus can be directed to his sovereignty and the relatability Jesus has to offer.
There is strength in embracing how running from something we don’t want may keep us from what we need. Our focus can be directed on God’s promises and the model of endurance and commitment Jesus completed through his resurrection.
The second fruit of the Spirit Paul listed in Galatians 5 was joy. According to Webster, joy is a deep emotion of pleasure or gladness. The joy produced in one’s life by walking in the Spirit as Paul is writing about is much more than just an emotion. Emotions can be driven by circumstances. A couple on their wedding day should be filled with joyful emotion. Everything has been planned to make it a perfect day. Does that mean on the unperfect days they will face together that they will not have joy? Paul is saying it doesn’t have to be that way.
Paul taught that circumstances don’t have to rob you of joy (read his letter to the Philippians). You can have inward hope and exuberance in spite of outward circumstances. That’s where we are tempted to walk in the flesh–letting circumstances determine our joy rather than our walk with the Holy Spirit. Who isn’t guilty of that?
So what does this look like, how does it work? When I think of the most joyful people I know, they have all walked through some pretty tough circumstances. And what they all tell me is that those circumstances deepened their joy in their relationship with God.
I’m thinking in particular of a couple that have two disabled children. I’ve known them for 14 years. We don’t see each other as often as we used to, but every time we see each other they have the same joyful spirit. She recently went through a cancer battle also. Have they given up on their walk with the Spirit? No, it seems by their testimony to me that it is stronger than ever. They walk a joyful life because circumstances haven’t determined their spirit. Their walk with God has produced steady, genuine, inner hope–joy in all circumstances.
What circumstance in your life tends to be your joy robber? Have you truly given that circumstance to God? It’s possible that’s your first step to this second fruit of the Spirit, to joy in all circumstances.