17 March 2009

Joy in Adversity?

Yes, joy in adversity. We can have it. The current economic crisis has made me dig even deeper into the depths of Scripture to find answers for life's trials. It always comes back to something like this: God in His wise providence has deemed my (fill in the blank here - trial, problem, heartache, job loss, disease, etc.) necessary and has done so for a reason that I may never know or understand on this side of heaven. Yet, joy comes from the Lord, not our situation. God knows our situation and is using it for His grand and glorious purposes. So, even if I could change my situation, would I? CJ Mahaney has let us in on his thoughts on this here. He concludes his brief explication this way, "I reminded [my friend] of Philippians 4:4 and passed along D.A. Carson’s comments on the verse from his book Basics for Believers: An Exposition of Philippians (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1996):

"The ultimate ground of our rejoicing can never be our circumstances, even though we as Christians recognize that our circumstances are providentially arranged. If our joy derives primarily from our circumstances, then when our circumstances change, we will be miserable. Our delight must be in the Lord himself. That is what enables us to live with joy above our circumstances. As Nehemiah puts it, “The joy of the Lord is your strength” (Neh. 8:10). Perhaps that is one of the reasons why the Lord sometimes allows miserable circumstances to lash us—that we may learn this lesson.…Whatever the mysteries of evil and sorrow, they do have the salutary effect of helping believers to shift the ground of their joy from created things to the Creator, from the temporary to the eternal, from jingoism to Jesus, from consumption to God."(p. 106)

How about you? Are you personally experiencing a season of adversity with no end in sight? If so, rather than peering into the future trying to predict the concluding date of the trial, I recommend you look down and then up.

Look down and realize a transition is under way to shift the ground of your joy “from created things to the Creator.” Then look up and delight in the Lord himself. Contemplate his changeless character and the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross. Then—dependent upon God’s grace—obey this command given for our good and his glory. Rejoice as you realize afresh you are doing much better than you deserve.

This will not alter the severity of your trial, but it will transform your perspective and strengthen your soul for the trial."

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