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The Compelling Witness of Choosing Joy Even in Difficult Times


Caroline Campbell has written the entire Bible by hand, completing in June a project that began nine years earlier. Her mother estimates that the completed manuscript, which is compiled in forty-three binders, is more than ten thousand pages.

Caroline serves as a greeter at her church in South Carolina and regularly visits church members in nursing homes. She got a job a few years ago at a restaurant, where the franchise owner said after meeting her, “This girl is a star. Her personality shines. She’s a true star, and her star radiates. Her attitude makes ours better.”

Since completing her handwritten Bible, Caroline has received some attention in the media and is happy to hear she’s inspired others to love God’s word as she does. She recently received a letter from a seminary student on the West Coast who told her he is going to begin writing out the Bible by hand too. All of this helps Caroline fulfill her mission, as she told Christianity Today:

“I want to inspire people to learn the Bible.”

By the way, Caroline has Down syndrome.

A video I hope you’ll watch

It can be easy to become discouraged by the day’s news. However, bad news is not the only news. And focusing on the positive is vital not only for our mental and spiritual health, but for our witness in our fallen culture.

To that end, I encourage you to watch a recent video by Dr. Dave Arnott, a professor of Management who teaches Economics at Dallas Baptist University and is the author of four books. Dr. Arnott notes that “humans have a natural negativity bias,” but he reminds us that most of the bad news in the news does not really affect our lives.

He then cites remarkable statistics showing how much better life is today than many people may think:

  • Over the past two generations, deaths due to war are down 95 percent.
  • Extreme poverty is down 80 percent; income inequality is down 10 percent; real per capita income is up 40 percent.
  • The number of famine victims has fallen from more than twenty million in the 1870s to 255,000 today.
  • Half of the world is now middle class or wealthier.
  • The global maternal mortality ratio has been halved since 1990.
  • Natural resources are more abundant and affordable than at any time in history.

Three enemies of joy

It is important to focus on the positive because our culture will try to steal our joy every day. Consider these three reasons.

One: As Dr. Arnott noted, negativity sells.

If a company can convince you that you have a problem their product solves, you are more likely to buy their product. Our “negativity bias” can be used to fuel our consumption and the advertiser’s bottom line.

Two: A secular culture has only secular reasons for hope.

Anyone who has lived for very long discovers that secular causes for happiness—new possessions, experiences, etc.—quickly fade. Not long after we buy a new car or house, we notice even newer cars or houses. And we all know that death is inevitable, bringing to an end any secular reasons for hope and happiness.

Three: Satan is the “god of this world” (2 Corinthians 4:4), and he wants to steal our joy every day.

He knows that Christian joy, especially in difficult times, can be our most compelling witness. And he knows that the joy of the Lord encourages and empowers us to grow even deeper with our Lord.

Thus, despite the compelling good news Dr. Arnott cites, it’s easy to be discouraged and even depressed today.

Choosing what we want most

How should Christians respond? Let’s close with two related imperatives.

One: Refuse temptation.

Since the Spirit is the source of joy (Galatians 5:22), it is vital that we do not “quench” (1 Thessalonians 5:19) or “grieve” (Ephesians 4:30) him. For this reason, we should see temptation as Satan’s attempt to steal our joy by urging us to trade what we want most for what we might want now.

Two: Find our joy in Jesus.

As I noted in a website article yesterday, joy comes from Jesus. As a result, we can “rejoice in the Lord always” (Philippians 4:4). The more we experience Jesus’ joy and love, the more we will want to share his joy and love with those who do not know his grace.

One of my ministry heroes

Last Sunday afternoon, it was my privilege to speak at the thirty-fifth anniversary of Mission Arlington, an outreach ministry based in Arlington, Texas. Founded in 1986 by Tillie Burgin, a former missionary to South Korea, its purpose is “taking church to the people.”

The ministry began with a Bible study in one apartment complex; today, it offers God’s word and worship in more than 350 locations around the DFW Metroplex. Last year, they served more than four hundred thousand people through health clinics, a counseling center, children’s camps, and a variety of other ministries.

The Burgins are among our best friends and are true heroes to my wife and me. Now in her eighties, Tillie still works six days a week, sleeps four hours a night, and serves those in need with a passion and love that is truly inspiring. Years ago, one of her sons told me that he asked his mother why she works so long and so hard in this calling.

She got tears in her eyes and said, “I just love him so much.”

Who will see Jesus’ joy in you today?

Publication date: August 5, 2021

Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/M. Image Photography 

Jim Denison, PhD, is a cultural theologian and the founder and CEO of Denison Ministries. Denison Ministries includes,,, and Jim speaks biblically into significant cultural issues at Denison Forum. He is the chief author of The Daily Article and has written more than 30 books, including The Coming Tsunamithe Biblical Insight to Tough Questions series, and The Fifth Great Awakening.

The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily reflect those of CrosswalkHeadlines.

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