– Sam Storms
Joy Amidst Suffering
We are commanded to keep “looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb. 12:2). Jesus was able to still have joy even before going to the cross because He looked forward to being seated again with the Father at His right hand. He endured the shame and suffering of the cross for the joy that was “before Him” or ahead of Him, allowing Him to suffer yet be joyful.
Grief to Joy
The disciples were overwhelmed by Jesus leaving them by going to die on a cross. They simply couldn’t understand how the Messiah was supposed to die. Yet Jesus told them, “So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you” (John 16:22). Joy is one of the fruits of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22), and that fruit can’t be removed by the enemy. We all move from grief to joy many times without even realizing it, like at a funeral of a Christian brother or sister who has departed this world. We grieve over our loss, but we know that the person who’s passed away is now in the joyful presence of the Lord.
Joy and Suffering
If you read James 1:2, it says, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds” because “you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness” (James 1:3), which seems to indicate that you can count or add up the value of our trials of suffering, which adds up to joy. This world cannot think like this; it thinks suffering means the absence of joy when it really means the presence of God.
Joy and suffering can co-exist because we might be suffering for Jesus’ sake. That ought to bring joy because we’re in the same company of those who were martyred for their faith, yet their joy could not be taken. In today’s suffering, think about the words from Jesus that ought to give you joy as well, which you and I may hear someday: “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master” (Matt. 25:23).