Moreover [let us also be full of joy now!] let us exult and triumph in our troubles and rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that pressure and affliction and hardship produce patient and unswerving endurance.
Romans 5:3 AMPC
It’s one thing to mentally assent to and even accept God’s greater purpose for my life. I see His sovereign hand everywhere in my life. But it’s something else entirely to live believing that God’s plans for me are truly for my good (Jer. 29:11). My lack of joy in suffering reveals my unbelief in both God’s goodness and His love.
Full of Joy in Suffering
The word ‘suffering’ covers a lot of ground. I suffer when people mock me. I suffer when people hate me. I suffer when people reject me. I suffer when I get sick or physically hurt. I suffer when a problem arises and no solution presents itself. I suffer when I am given a task that is beyond my capability. Life is full of suffering, especially when your heart is open and vulnerable. And if I belong to Jesus, shouldn’t I be as full of joy as my life is full of suffering?
I have experienced the inexplicable joy of Christ Himself at times when circumstances warranted a more somber reaction. I know what it is to be full of joy when I should be weeping. I take no credit for that; it’s grace, pure and simple. But as with everything in this life, revelations through grace still have to be lived out in order to be made reality. That’s the basis of maturing spiritually.
Full of Joy from Surrender
I take up my cross daily in the ongoing surrender to my life as it unfolds. Being full of joy in the midst of my suffering is only possible for my new creation. Suffering tempts me to put on my old rags and fight for my life. Whether I’m defending myself against mean people or scheming to find a way out of a daunting situation, I’m trying to save my life. But every time I take that path – that big, broad, heavily traveled path – I’m no longer following Jesus. Surrendering to the pain of the moment and receiving it as from God’s own hand? That’s the cross that ushers in the life and joy of Christ.
Simply saying, “I choose to surrender to this, Lord!” and then willing yourself into some facsimile of ‘joy’ is not what I’m talking about here. That road leads nowhere you want to go. I know because I’ve walked it. It isn’t obedience to suppress your honest heart response and put on a happy face while calling it grace. Waving a white flag while loading a gun doesn’t count as actual surrender. We’ve got to acknowledge the hurt or anger or fear we feel, and then take every last bit of it captive to Christ. That’s surrender. And I can never be genuinely full of joy without it.