Recently I preached on Mark 1:32-34.  Knowing that many people in the congregation are going through significant trial and struggle I was compelled to dig in a little deeper to a joy and hope filled life.

If you’re one of the people at Transcend Church who is going through it and perhaps “not feeling it”, please read on.  When the scripture speaks of hope and joy, it does so to the hopeless and joyless as well as the hopeful and joyful.  Perhaps you yourself have been one or the other at one time in the past.  Know this, the future life that scripture speaks of is one without tears or pain.  Not like Ozzy Osborne “no more tears” but like Revelation 21:4 no more tears.  One thing this implies is that in this life there are tears and often we do not want to hear that.  On suffering – “That is before we become a Christian“, maybe we wrongly think, or “that’s for unbelievers“.  Scripture speaks very plainly to this: 1 Peter 4:12-19, 2 Corinthians 4:17, Galatians 6:2, James 1:12, Luke 14:27, and so on and so on and so on.  Suffering likely will be part of our lives in this world.  Have you experienced suffering in this life, believer?  Take heart!  Scripture speaks of hope and joy to the hopeless and joyless as well as the hopeful and joyful.

So, when we see the “finger of God” like Exodus 8:19 in Jesus’ healing do we follow its gaze to joy or do we look for joy in the healing its self and stop short of Jesus’ purpose in those situations?  Jesus brings about union to, connection to, and fellowship with God.  During our Study in Mark 1:32-34 we referenced 1 John 1:4’s joyous penning of scripture so that we could know the witness of Jesus and it’s path to God not simply a short changed path to temporary momentary comfort in this life.  But something much greater that can and should generate real joy.

Maybe you’re a believer, you’re God’s child but things are rough.  I don’t mean like, “I’m 5 dollars short for the oil change my car needs”, rough but I mean like “my mom died”, rough or “my precious spouse died”, rough.  I mean like,  “I was raped”, rough.  I mean like “I’m fighting with all my strength and losing against the calls and drawing of drugs and alcohol and would rather die by my own hand than go back there”, rough.

…and so I want to come to you privately like this – on your time with a loving deeper dive.  Also, I’ll share two kinds of love with you 1) gentle encouraging love and 2) tough love.

Gentle Encouraging Love

God’s ways are higher than ours, as we walk through trial we learn to trust God.  This trial can be an opportunity to learn to trust Him more deeply in every area of your walk with Him.  This will both harden you for a sin sick world and give you experiences that allow you to comfort other struggling believers.  Finally as you survey back over you life, as you come through these dark times you will come to know and really trust God.  Are you after that, do you want that?  This is the Christian life be encouraged even in the darkness of trial. 

Isaiah 40:13

Who has measured the Spirit of the Lord, 

or what man shows him his counsel? 

Isaiah 55:8-9

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, 

neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. 

For as the heavens are higher than the earth, 

so are my ways higher than your ways 

and my thoughts than your thoughts. 

We’re encouraged to trust God even when (perhaps especially when) we can’t understand how these circumstances are allowed to happen.  Take encouragement from the story of the Israelites exodus.  God lead them marching hard and I’m sure uncomfortably fleeing from a national army to the edge of a sea.  Why?  To make them trust Him more in the future, to demonstrate His power, for His glory?  Was that only in their life – is God then not able to enable your deeper trust in Him, is He not able to demonstrate His power for His glory in your life?

Tough Love

We live in a broken sin-sick world.  In this world broken sick-sick things happen.  The book of Romans puts it like this: Romans 8:22-23

22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies

In article from several years back in the Gospel Coalition blog I readThis is why the best metaphor for the current state of creation is childbirth (Rom. 8:22; Matt. 24:8). The pangs aren’t meaningless because the world is giving birth to a new version of itself.”  knowing that the pain isn’t meaningless, is the ultimate hope.  Is this world at times awful, yes resoundingly yes.  But, the promise of God – is that the ultimate good and better are our future realty in Christ.   This is tough love because it says in spite of the pain(s) of life, freedom in Christ is freedom and joy.  While our circumstances may not be joyous – future reality is relief.

So, while I don’t pretend that the believers life is gogo-clusters and gum drops I do know, the truth of God transcend’s this life.  It may not relieve our struggle right now, but it gives the struggle purpose.  And if the struggles of life were purposeless pain that would be the ultimate discouragement and that is the tough love.  God does not promises to give you a pain-free life here, but He does in the future and while in this life He gives the struggle purpose and hope of a better future.  So, sufferer-Christian cling to that and fight for joy.  When you don’t feel joy, please know, all God’s promises remain true even as your circumstances change.  Learn Christian to sink back into the comfort of God, knowing that He is with you.

As you go through trial there can be a temptation to treat everyone around you poorly.  They don’t understand what you are going through, their lives are perfect while yours is hard.  This will make you cold, callus and it is sinful.  It is NOT the love of God that is in you because of the Spirt of God.  You’re being immature and covetous, stop it.

In Acts 14:21-22 days after the new church start Paul encouraged them that “through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God” – perhaps if this tough love view anchored our faith we’d be more prepared for the attacks vaulted against believers in a sin sick world rather than anticipating some odd western Christ-utopia which was never promised.  Christian I pray that tough love allows you to fight for joy.  Here are some resources:

When I don’t Desire God

Making Sense of Suffering 

Is this encouraging

I hope so – I cannot relieve your circumstances, and God never promised to do so.  Rather He promised to be better than them and to comfort us in this life, have you sought that?  You’re going to have to rest knowing that your knowledge and understanding don’t out pace His – and trust Him.  Even when (perhaps especially when) you’re not feeling it and circumstances don’t make it easy.  And so, when you’re not feeling it, press on and fight for Joy – because God is so much greater than our circumstances, take pause and learn to trust Him in and through this, and talk together with your fellow believers for prayer and support don’t hide and wallow.