“How great is the happiness of loving and serving God while journeying through this valley of tears! This is the sweet peculiarity of the religion of Jesus. Oh happy, blissful state – to be the genuine disciples of the blessed Jesus, who has assured his faithful people that he will manifest himself to them, as he does not unto the world! Yes, he will even come to them and make his abode with them.”1
A doctor of psychiatry once pulled my parents aside and groused, “I’m worried about Scott; he smiles all the time. I don’t think he’s made peace with his paralysis.”
That was 35 years ago; I was in rehab for sustaining an injury from a horrible accident which left me paralyzed from the chest down. The doctor was on staff, and it was his job to regularly counsel with all the newly injured, presumably to get their heads straight.
The three of us shared a good laugh over that when my folks came back into my room and reported what the meeting was about.
Today’s post is for someone who is finding it hard to get to that place of being held and rocked in the peace and joy of the Lord through your hard trials.
A guy in prison, on trumped up charges, gave this report to the churches who were praying for him and hoping against hope for some good news about clemency for their friend: “rejoice in the Lord always – let me say it again – rejoice!”2 Yeah, the same guy who said “in everything give thanks.”3 That guy.
The spirit of his counsel was, my situation may never change and I’m okay with that, but right now my chief concern is that you find his joy in your situation and not lose heart.
The joy of the Lord is your strength.4
I’m struck by the beautiful thought that it is the Lord’s joy in me, not my joy in him, that gives me strength!
My broken-hearted friend, did you know the Lord takes delight in you? That he doesn’t just tolerate you or mildly accept you? That he’s not doing this *to* you, but he’s permitting it *for* your advancement?
I don’t always ‘feel’ joy, but in those seasons (like now) when I got nuthin, am broken, running on fumes, or feeling like a big, fat zero, my medicine is to recall the immutable gospel truth that he always has joy unspeakable and full of glory – yes, absolutely – for me!
The story I shared at the top of this post was an isolated incident. There are many times I have languished through seasons of hurt and disappointment when there was no smile on my face, no vitality of glad acceptance, no stomach for ‘doing it so others will see Jesus in me.’
But the Lord – who knows it all – sang his familiar lullaby over my cast-down soul….and. every. single. time. awakened in me a strength I hadn’t a clue I owned (which was, in fact, not my own), stood me on my feet, put a song on my lips, and brought me through – scathed perhaps, but far more valuable to him and a better man to those in my life. I have no doubt he will do the same again now, because I desperately need him to.
My fellow struggler, this is peculiar to our faith, and our faith alone, and no other religion can boast of such a ‘works every time’ remedy for our woundedness and despair. You may not feel like smiling; that’s okay. There is One who matters, and he’s smiling because he knows something you just don’t see yet.
1 Thomas Reade (1776-1841), Love Eternal And Unchangeable
2 Philippians 4:4
3 1Thessalonians 5:16-18
4 Nehemiah 8:10