Joy in Suffering
When we think of occasions that bring us joy, we often think of times in our lives where we have had an experience that was joyful, like getting married, having a child, a graduation. Maybe even just sharing a meal with friends or family or a birthday celebration. These events are all counted as great times of joy. But can we find joy when things aren't going so well at all? We would never actually think about finding joy in suffering. The "normal" response a person has to these two ideals would probably be opposites because surely there is no joy ever found when an individual suffers. That is probably true unless you understand that when you find yourself in Christ, that you are presently living in His Kingdom. What situation or problem could you not count as joy? Paul wrote in Philippians from a jail cell, yet when you read his letter, you could never tell that his imprisonment – chains as he would put it – had affected him as he was not as concerned about his situation as he was the people to whom he wrote. Paul spoke to the church in Philippi like someone who knew true joy because he understood that living here on earth was only a very temporary situation for him and that he had a longing to be with Christ.
Paul writes in Philippians 1:21, "For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain." Paul writes this as he wrote about possibly being delivered out of prison. But, he had joy in knowing that whether he lived or died, first and foremost he wanted Christ to be exalted or magnified in whatever happens. It is only possible to write from this perspective, when you truly have your sites on things from above. In C.S. Lewis’ autobiography, Surprised by Joy, he tells of experiencing "an other – worldly joy – a specific joy that defies our modern understanding." This idea of joy is not a satisfied desire but an unsatisfied desire – a deep longing for God, a hungry pursuit of God’s heart that never ends and is more satisfying than any earthly happiness.
We should never be content with where we are spiritually. We should always be in pursuit of the one and only joy that comes from the deep longing to be in the presence of our everlasting God, especially in times of suffering.