Joy at all times

Originally posted on 10/10/14

Hope Discovery for the Day:

Joy is not the absence of suffering, it is the presence of God.

Scriptures of the Day:

Lamentations 3:21-28, 31-33

3:21 But this I call to mindtherefore I have hope22 The Lord’s loyal kindness never ceases; his compassions never end. 23 They are fresh every morningyour faithfulness is abundant!  24My portion is the Lord,” I have said to myselfso I will put my hope in him.  25 The Lord is good to those who trust in him, to the one who seeks him. 26 It is good to wait patiently for deliverance from the Lord. 27 It is good for a man to bear the yoke while he is young.  28 Let a person sit alone in silence when the LORD is disciplining him.  31 For the Lord will not reject us forever. 32Though he causes us grief, he then has compassion on us according to the abundance of his loyal kindness33 Forhe is not predisposed to afflict or to grieve people.

Lamentations 5:21

5:21 Bring us back to yourself, O Lord, so that we may return to you; renew our life as in days before.

James 1:12-18

12 Happy is the one who endures testing, because when he has proven to be genuine, he will receive the crown of lifethat God promised to those who love him. 13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God,” for Godcannot be tempted by evil, and he himself tempts no one. 14 But each one is tempted when he is lured and enticedby his own desires. 15 Then when desire conceives, it gives birth to sin, and when sin is full grown, it gives birth to death. 16 Do not be led astray, my dear brothers and sisters. 17 All generous giving and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or the slightest hint of change. 18 Byhis sovereign plan he gave us birth through the message of truth, that we would be a kind of first fruits of all hecreated.

This moment of worship in Lamentations by Jeremiah is preceded by a vivid description of complete and utter devastation for himself and his people.  The suffering that is depicted is severe and seemingly hopeless.  Infants eaten by their mothers, priests and prophets killed in the LORD’s sanctuary, young men and women falling by the sword, children slowly starving to death in their mother’s arms.  Such wicked atrocities permitted can give us a sense of betrayal.  How could someone who loves us so much allow it? But Jeremiah did not blame God.  He knew it was punishment for their sins and patiently endured, placing his hope in the living God.  Instead of an embittered hopelessness, Jeremiah modeled that suffering produces a surprising fruit for those who are patient in the midst.  He was even thankful for it, for it opened his eyes to the truth and to how faithful God is and ultimately brought him to the place where God alone was his portion.

The honeymoon period after first accepting the LORD as my personal Savior was sweet.  The excitement of knowing my God more was incomparable to any other joy.  Getting off work from T.G.I. Friday’s at 3:00 am, I could not wait to get home and seek God, despite classes at 9:00 in the morning.  I have never wanted to lose my fervor for the LORD, but admittedly there have been seasons where I have felt dry, forgotten and almost gave up hope.  Praise God that He carries us through such times as we place our hope in Him.  While suffering admittedly is not something people typically yearn for, the hidden treasures it bestows ironically make it a blessing for those who walk through the suffering and not around it.  No pain, no gain.  And what does the suffering achieve?

An inner joy when circumstances surrounding us are less than desirable.  A peace that surpasses understanding.   A sweet fellowship with our LORD.   An enduring hope when there is seemingly nothing to hope in.  Most importantly, those who have tasted suffering and glorified God in the midst no longer worship Him for what He can give them, but for Who He is.  He is our portion.  Discipline never seems pleasant at the time, but the harvest of righteousness is the sweetest reward.

Lord, help us to submit to You in the processes in this life which are not desirable to our flesh.  Give strength and perseverance to those suffering now.  Help us to see what really matters – knowing You.  Be glorified in our lives, LORD.

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