Finding Joy When Life Isn't Fair
- Friday, April 11, 2008
Editor's Note: This piece is a follow-up to a previous article entitled,"Is God Fair? Maybe Not, But He's Right." in which the author wrote: "I was surprised at how much reaction the [first] article generated. Mostly people agreed with my assessment that our expectations for life are wildly out of touch with biblical reality. However, there were a few who commented that perhaps the tone of my article was one of bitterness at life's disappointments. 'When life gives you lemons, make lemonade,' one person wrote. I agree, so I thought it good to write a follow-up on the unexpected joy Christians find in the midst of trials."
"Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning"
When you first meet Linda Sullivan, my mother-in-law, you might think she has enjoyed a carefree, easygoing life. You might think she has never endured rejection, disappointment, or betrayal.
Linda's not that way, however. Despite her hardship, Linda is full of joy. She has not only kept her faith, she's shared it with countless others. She wears a constant smile and is an encouragement to her family and her network of friends.
I've known Linda for six years and I've never seen her without a pen and a stack of note cards. There is always someone to encourage, someone's burden to help carry, someone to pray over. She has sent innumerable cards, bookmarks, and gifts to those who are hurting. And her cell phone is always dialed up with someone who needs a friend.
Linda's life is a great example of a biblical paradox: joy in the midst of suffering.
The world - and sadly, many in the church - have propagated the myth that happiness is found in prosperity, in promotion, in power. How often have you heard, "If you follow God, all your problems will go away"? Or, "God wants to make you rich"?
That doesn't quite square with Jesus words to his disciples in Matthew 16:24: "If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me."
Thus, American Christians, having been fed a steady diet of false expectations, are not conditioned for the hard times. When something comes along that threatens the good life, we throw our hands up and scream, "Wait, this isn't fair!"
Now is where real faith enters - faith that God knows what He is doing and has our best interests at heart. Faith that nothing we endure is outside of His will. Faith that looks for happiness, satisfaction, and fulfillment in a relationship with God.
This is also where real joy begins. Joy in trials. Consider the words of James to the early church, which endured bitter persecution. He said, "My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations" (James 1:2).
Paul experienced that joy. Writing from prison, Paul encouraged the believers of Philippi with a letter whose theme is "Rejoice." He spoke as if joy were optional, a choice. Something you choose to do in spite of your circumstances.
Linda has made this choice throughout her life. And because of her testimony, her life has been a light to bring others into the Kingdom. It's akin to the testimony of Job, who said, "Though he slay me, yet I will trust him" (Job 13:15); the testimony of Joseph, who looked at his brothers, who had betrayed him, and said, "What you meant for evil, God meant for good" (Genesis 50:20); the testimony of the prophet Habakkuk, who surveyed his corrupt and crumbling nation and declared, "Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls: Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation" (Habakkuk 3:17).
The truth is that life isn't fair. You know it. I know it. Things happen that knock us off of our feet. But we have a God who promises to lead us by the hand, to wrap his arms around us, and to work out our life for His glory.
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