Have you ever noticed that not all good news floods your life with joy? Sometimes good news brings trepidation, anxiety, concern, or questions.
Sometimes good news brings change, and for some, change causes apprehension, which haunts the joy that the news intended to have. For example, the news of each of my pregnancies carried joy wrapped in anxiety whether or not I would meet my child.
And this is the thing about joy: joy and suffering do not preclude one another. In fact, it’s fully possible to experience joy while suffering, and it’s fully possible to experience suffering and know indescribable joy.
We shouldn’t live this life one where one or the other overshadow each other. They live side by side, at times simultaneously and at other times alternating. But when we try to keep suffering separate from joy, we lose authenticity within ourselves.
Suffering happens. It’s part of growing as a Christian. But we don’t have to be afraid of it.
Foundational knowledge of joy starts with understanding that God is joyous and that joy is fruit. Joy is not a feeling, although it brings emotions. To broaden our understanding of joy we need to expand our understanding of the gospel news.
Luke 2:10, “And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.” The Israelites were a chosen people, destined to show God’s rescue of the world, but they themselves needed rescuing.
It’s this type of good news that joy finds its ability to live side by side with sorrow. And because of the joy that the good news brings, we don’t have to live in acute suffering because Jesus himself takes it and carries it for us.
In Simply Good News by N. T. Wright, we read, “We can be, and we are called to be, good-news people–people who themselves are being renewed by the good news, people through whom the good news is bringing healing and hope to the world at whatever level.”
This is how joy and sorrow live side by side. It’s this understanding of the true meaning of the gospel, which isn’t just to save you from eternal damnation, but it’s also so that you live transformed lives choosing “right-living” so that you can put the world to rights, right where you live.
We get to become good news people, living transformed by belief in the gospel, recruited for God image-bearing work, justified or “put right” by Christ’s death and resurrection so that we can be “putting right” people for the world. We’re healed people whom God brings healing to the world.
This gospel, this understanding of the gospel, is joy unspeakable. It’s joy that sustains us through devastation, suffering, and disappointments because our foundation is God’s truth that he is full of immeasurable love for you and me.
This news should bring joy that swells in our hearts so that we shout it from the rooftops. It enables us to live 2 Corinthians 4:7-9: hard pressed, but not crushed. Perplexed, but not despairing. Persecuted, but not abandoned. Struck down, but not destroyed.
Let’s let the good news of the gospel do it’s work within us. It transforms us as we submit to the work of the Holy Spirit. And as we trust God’s heart for us we understand the power of his joy.
Read Colossians for one or two or more weeks. Reading a book over and over reveals new truth each time you read through it. Ponder the truth found in it for living out the gospel.
We’ve had Good Friday and then a Saturday. Some call it sad, or silent, and for some it’s just Saturday–that day of getting things done. But Sunday comes and with it the recognition and celebration of Jesus’ resurrection. There’s sunrise services, pancake breakfasts, and coffee. Kids and candy. We sing songs celebrating the cross and hear sermons centered on Jesus.
But what happens Monday? We drag ourselves out of bed still half drugged by all the delicious food we ate the day before. We stumble and bumble as we take one wobbly step after the other.
Do you forget the power of Resurrection Sunday and turn to the power of caffeine to make it through your morning? I stumbled through my Bible reading today and didn’t feel awake until I gulped that cup of steaming coffee. How does the resurrection change your life? Or does it?
I’m sitting here, slouched low with a blanket tossed over my lap. The skies are laden with hidden snow and a wind that slips through the cracks of this old house. I wonder how quickly bedtime will get here and I sigh as I wonder where that resurrection power went. Today felt less than powerful.
Is God’s grace only good for when I am full of energy? Is it grace when I’m on top of my game, but have I lost my hold on grace when my speed is that of a sloth?
Could it be that we have our understanding of grace misconstrued? What if it’s grace to embrace moving at a slower pace? What if it’s grace to snuggle a little longer with your babies or linger over that cup of coffee as you listen to the birdsong?
It’s the start of a new week and we experienced the climax of Christiandom this weekend. The betrayal. The sorrow. The beatings. The grief. And the wonder. It’s all grace because it was part of God’s plan to bring us to himself through his son Jesus.
And if grace can include the hard then we must look at our hard through the lens of grace.
Remember that morning where you longed for an intravenous line of coffee and it took all day to get your engines going? There’s grace in it because Christ is in you.
Yes, we have responsibilities that call us. And we’re going to eat too much and pay for it the next day. We’re going to be irritable and snap at our co-worker, our family, or our friends. That doesn’t mean grace has left us.
“But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared,he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit,whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior,so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” Titus 3:7 ESV
It’s in those moments, when exhaustion sets in or irritation rules us, that we need to remember that it’s not our actions that prove grace is in our lives, but it’s God’s mercy that he washes us and renews us by the Holy Spirit. It doesn’t ebb and flow based on your mood or energy or what happened to you today. It’s our response that ebbs and flows and the more we relax into God’s transforming, amazing grace, the more we’re changed.
The Takeaway for Grace
As we surrender to the washing and renewal of the Holy Spirit our wretchedness gets exchanged for grace, our lost-ness for found-ness, and our blindness for sight.
On your next bad day, take a perspective shift and ask God to show you the grace in it. It could be developing perseverance, endurance, maturity, or hope. Today, I knew God as my strength, not just to help me with the physical exhaustion, but emotional strength as I dealt gently with my people.
Hopelessness is barren and covered in destruction. It appears as though nothing can grow. Hopelessness strips us of growth, it destroys life, and it leaves barrenness in its wake. It appears as if all is lost.
Call me an incurable optimist, but even when all seems lost and hope has vanished, I look for the positive. Sometimes I have to dig in the muck and mire. At times, I search and search, but eventually I find treasure. And you can too.
Our hopelessness doesn’t have to define us. God can use the circumstances in our life to refine us if we allow him to draw us near, open our eyes, and hear what he has to say.
Turn to God instead of away from God.
When trials come, do you have a tendency to blame God, run away from God, or turn to God? Sometimes I go through the process of all three. The mentality: “I’m a child of God, no troubles should befall me,” gets stuck in our head and when trials come, we stomp our feet and cry, “Why?” Or we run away from God and wait out the trial behind busyness or religious duties. The best response is to turn to God. Ask him your questions, seek him for answers, and choose to trust him.
“Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again.” 2 Corinthians 1:9-10 (ESV)
Our perspective for the purpose of trials needs refining. Trust God. He doesn’t waste a hurt, ever. At times that is hard to believe because the devastation we feel is so overwhelming. How can we trust God if he allows so much hurt? is a question that can roll through our minds. When that question plagues me, I remember the cross. I remember what Jesus experienced and know that redemption came through pain.
When we stand strong in the face of our pain, God redeems it and allows our faith to be strengthened by it. We exchange our hopelessness for hope when we set our hope on him, and not on ourselves or whatever vices we turn to when we feel devastated by life.
Rely on God. Self-sufficiency and a stiff-upper lip are positive traits until they’re not. And they’re not when we try and go through this life in our own strength. If we can exchange our self-sufficiency for God’s sufficiency and that stiff-upper lip for eyes fixed on God, we begin to rely on God. He guides us, molds us, and directs us. We simply must respond by a letting go of our own abilities and strength and exchange it for competency in his ability to rescue and renew us.
Set your hope on God that he will deliver you again. He does deliver. Take a moment to remember and remind yourself of how God rescues you.