Tuesday, September 24, 2013

What’s Caught My Eye…

Why don’t we encourage sufferers to aim for joy? Perhaps we think of suffering and joy as a two-step process, as if what we see in Psalm 126:5-6—We go out weeping and return with shouts of joy—is the only pattern. This view sees suffering and joy as fundamentally incompatible and unable to be experienced simultaneously. But that can’t be true. Scripture indicates that life in the age of the Spirit will have the hardest suffering and the greatest joy—and both can be experienced at the same time. The Apostle Paul illustrated this as one of the many of the implications of the gospel: “in all our affliction, I am overflowing with joy” (2 Cor. 7:4).

This means that even when we are in pain, we can go in search of joy with the expectation that it will, indeed, find and surprise us. Think about the end of war and enemies defeated (1 Chron. 16:33, Ps. 27:6), water in the desert (Is. 35:6), how the Lord delights in the welfare of his servants (Ps. 35:27), how the Lord comforts his people (Is. 49:13), how the Father, Son and Spirit take joy in each other and, through Jesus, we are brought into that joy (John 15:11). Think about how forgiveness of sins has secured for us all the promises of God, which are summarized in his unceasing presence with us. This presence, and the future glory of seeing him face-to-face, is to be at the very center of our joy.

But in this search we still have a problem. The prevailing treatment and dominant metaphor today for alleviating pain is medication. We take a pill and wait for it to be effective. We give the treatment limited time to show its worth before we move on to a new prescription. Joy does not follow this pattern. It does not come quickly. In fact, if we expect quick results, we are not actually seeking joy and it will never come. Joy does counterbalance pain, but that is a side effect of joy rather than its goal.

Read the whole thing here: The Hard Pairing of Suffering and Joy.

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