A man sits in prison, unjustly accused. His living conditions are deplorable. It is cold and dark and he never sees the light of day. Rats infest his living quarters and the minimal food he gets does little to nurture his failing body. Yet, this man is filled with praise to God. He continues to encourage those around him and share the good news of faith in Jesus with all who will listen. Not only does he find cause to rejoice each day, but he actively encourages his followers and friends to do the same.
A woman sits in a prison camp, put in there because she and her family chose to help those maliciously targeted by her government. The filthy conditions and substandard food take their toll on her steadily weakening body. Degraded, downtrodden and mistreated, she still faces each bleak day with the hope that God will see her through. Separated from most of her loved ones, she finds purpose in teaching others about the love of Christ.
I could provide you with many examples of people who face adversity head on and survive by God’s grace. How is that people like the Apostle Paul and Corrie ten Boom retain their joy amid some incredible hardships?
Unlike happiness, true joy comes from within. It is a mindset and not based on a particular circumstance or condition. Happiness if fleeting. It is that feel good mentality that the world puts out there as being the thing for which we strive to attain. The pursuit of happiness is a common goal – looking for those things that will take away the pain and take our minds off our troubles, even for a moment.
The trouble with looking for the next happy place is that sooner or later things will go awry. For a person whose life isn’t full of the joy of the Lord this can be devastating. These people can be mired in despondency when rough circumstances prevail.
It’s not likely that the Apostle Paul is happy with his living conditions while imprisoned, yet he is joyful. That joy stems from his deep faith in Jesus as his Lord and Saviour. He is able to rise up above his circumstances and focus on the hope he has in Christ. Paul knows that his present circumstances are only temporary. He looks forward to heaven and the true, everlasting joy he will experience there.
Having a relationship with Jesus means we are not alone. Think of the difference between a single string and a cord with strings intertwined. The single string is easily broken whereas the multi stringed cord is not. Trying to live our lives on our own and trying to make our own way ultimately leads to disaster. When we are connected to Christ, we have a bond that will not break.
When we have that strong bond with Jesus, we gain His consolation and support when disaster strikes. He walks with us through challenging times and keeps us from being overcome by our misfortune. Jesus is also there in good times and in our successes, helping us realize that God has given us these good things and they are not of our own doing.
After Corrie ten Boom survived her time in a Nazi concentration camp she went on to tour the world sharing the Gospel. Her simple message of hope touched many. She lived through some dark days but never lost faith that God would care for her. Her hope is summed up in this quote of hers: “With Jesus, even in our darkest moments the best remains and the very best is yet to be…” Corrie’s joy came from knowing that her future didn’t depend on the things of this world but instead was tied to her hope in Christ. She puts it well: “If you look at the world, you’ll be distressed. If you look within, you’ll be depressed. But if you look at Christ, you’ll be at rest.”
Look to Christ today. He is your source of true and everlasting joy. Take heart and know that He cares for you with a care beyond measure. You are His precious child. Live in His joy and His peace and may you find your rest and comfort in Him.