The Lord has been taking me through a special season of teaching me about choosing joy in the midst of stress, change, chaos and struggle. I say "special" because it's not enjoyable and yet it's so sweet. Whether it's Bible class with Joshua, my own personal devotions, quotes from books I'm reading, or a sermon I'm listening to, the theme of Joy In Suffering keeps coming up.
One book that I like to go to on this topic is called "Choose Joy" by Kay Warren. She gives a great illustration to demonstrate how joy is possible in the midst of trials. She says that we usually think of life as a series of ups and downs, mountains and valleys. Sometimes we're up on the mountain and things are going well/smoothly in life. Other times we're low in the valley, where our hearts are heavy and we might feel overwhelmed or defeated. But Kay says we need to think of life as train tracks instead. One track represents joys and one represents suffering. So just like train tracks which run parallel to each other, joy and suffering run at the same time. We experience both at the same time. Even when we go through really tough times we can experience joy at the very same time because joy isn't a happy feeling dependent on our circumstances, but rather a state of our heart and mind. Kay Warren's beautiful definition of joy is:
"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."
1 Thessalonians 5:16:
Last week a young 46 year old pastor who lived a very active missional life in both Uganda and South Sudan, passed away suddenly. His family lives just down the road from us so we attended all of the funeral gatherings. During the big service held at their home a pastor from one of the churches here in Adjumani gave a heart boosting sermon in which he reminded all of us who were mourning that Pastor Juma John is in heaven now, rejoicing with the Lord. There is no where he'd rather be! And we, as believers, have the hope and joy of looking forward to that too! Though wailing and weeping continued throughout that whole day, immediately after his sermon, we sang a song. I don't even know what the words were but about 20 people danced to the front, many with their hands lifted to heaven and smiles on their faces and of course tears still in their eyes. And since I'd been "marinating" for a few days on this topic of joy in suffering I realized in that moment that I was seeing it being worked out right in front of me. That -
& Determined Choice