CAN WE BE JOYFUL IN SUFFERING?

Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!Philippians 4:4

My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.James 1:2

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Ephesians 5:18-20

God hates evil and He commands us to hate it as well so so these verses certainly don’t mean we are to rejoice in evil, per se, However, we should believe Romans 8:28, which tells us God will work all things together for our good, including evil things that happen to us.

Believing this frees us to thank God in the middle of difficult and even evil circumstances, knowing that in His sovereign grace, He is accomplishing great, eternal purposes in us through these things. We walk by faith, believing in what God has done, is doing, and will do to bring a good end to all that troubles us. Choosing to rejoice, recounting our blessings in the midst of trials, affirms trust in God.

This response requires faith that God lovingly superintends our challenges. Viewing our sufferings as random or obsessing over someone else’s bad choices that caused our sufferings robs us of happiness. A weak, small, or faulty view of God always poisons the well of our contentment.

Being Spirit controlled is inseparable from giving thanks in everything. The more we grow in our understanding of God’s attributes, the happier we become.

.The deeper our knowledge of God’s character, the deeper our reservoir of strength, perspective, and happiness in hard times. Who is this God we are to trust? What is He really like?

Scripture teaches that we have a God who loves us and is sovereign over the universe, including all evil. We can’t be happy, and remain happy, without believing in the sovereignty of a loving God. The beauty of the Christian worldview is that while we’re encouraged to take initiative and control what’s within our power, we also know that the enormous part of life we can’t control is under God’s governance.

Scripture tells us, “Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleasesPsalm 115:3. It assures us, “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.Proverbs 16:9. And since God is eternally wise and good and happy, and we’re not, we’re far better off with Him, not us, in control.

Our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” Romans 8:18

Our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” 2 Corinthians 4:17.

In light of that eternal glory being achieved for us by our momentary troubles, Paul offers the following words of eternal perspective: “We fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” 2 Corinthians 4:1

This article is excerpted from Randy Alcorn’s book Does God Want Us to Be Happy?

Addendum: When times are difficult, hard, and bring sorrow, then remember, chose to bring to mind, the wonderful deliverance Jesus has achieved for you. Then put on the garment of praise.  The spirit of heaviness will depart – no need to let things depress us and get us down. He will never leave us nor forsake us, He will bring good out of every situation for us. God is good. Sometimes it takes effort to start to praise God – especially if we come from a dark place, a place of difficulty or even a place of tragedy. Yet be transformed by the renewing of your mind, and sing and shout your praises to God, breakthrough into the inexpressible joy of the Lord – it is the place of strength for life.

HOW CAN I SUFFER WELL?

What a crazy question? If one thing is true about this life, it’s that everyone suffers. It’s a universal experience; something we can expect to face at various turns in our life.

However, given that everyone suffers, maybe there’s a better question we can ask. Rather than, “Why do I suffer?” instead we could inquire, “When I suffer, how can I face it well?

None of us choose to suffer, but each of us gets to choose how we suffer. If we’re willing to shift our question in this way, God in Psalm 73 gives a brilliant answer.

A worship leader called Asaph penned this Psalm. The Psalm has three parts.

1. Problem: In verses 1-14, Asaph tells us about the problem that he faced.

But as for me, I almost lost my footing. My feet were slipping, and I was almost gone. For I envied the proud when I saw them prosper despite their wickedness.” Psalm 73:2-3

Asaph is resentful of those around him making ungodly life choices but facing no consequences for it. He describes their cruelty, greed and pride in depth and then remarks, “Look at these wicked people enjoying a life of ease while their riches multiply.

Maybe you feel the same sense of injustice in your own life; maybe you don’t relate at all. But one thing we can all take away from Asaph’s complaint is that God is big enough to handle our problems.

We don’t need to paper over them. Like Asaph, we can express our frustrations to God. If we need to whinge, far better to whinge to the One who has supernatural patience and can actually do something about it.

God wants us to draw near and tell Him about our struggles. He doesn’t require eloquent prayers—He just wants our hearts. This might be why the word ‘heart’ is mentioned six times in this Psalm.

At the height of his complaint, Asaph moans.

Did I keep my heart pure for nothing? Did I keep myself innocent for no reason? 14 I get nothing but trouble all day long; every morning brings me pain.” Psalm 73:13-14

In other words, “God, I’m trying to do the right thing, so why am I still suffering so much?” Does that question sound familiar? Yes, Asaph is asking the wrong question. He’s in need of some perspective—and that’s exactly what he’s about to get.

2. Perspective

in verses 15-22, we hear about the perspective that he gained. A sudden shift takes place as Asaph realises,

If I had really spoken this way to others, I would have been a traitor to your people.Psalm 73:15

Up until this point, Asaph hadn’t been seeing straight. He’d been in a deep well of self-pity, and now he’s starting to ascend out of it. His eyes have been opened to something we’re so often blinded to: our feelings are not facts. In such moments of self-pity, we need the facts to reshape our feelings. This is exactly what happens to Asaph:

So I tried to understand why the wicked prosper. But what a difficult task it is!  Then I went into your sanctuary, O God, and I finally understood the destiny of the wicked.Psalm 73:16-17

We moderns don’t like this idea—the destiny of the wicked. Surely at the end of time, we reason, God will be kind to all. But is that really what we want?

How terrible it would be to catalogue all of the evil, committed through all of the centuries, by all of the tyrants and terrorists, tricksters and transgressors. It would leave no doubt that the world truly cries out for justice.

A God that lets every wrongdoer off the hook is not a God worthy of our affection: he is a moral monster. Deep down, we long to see vindication for those who have suffered.

Despite our modern objections, deep down we long for the God of Asaph—the God who will right every wrong, who steps in to defend the oppressed.

God will bring about ultimate justice. This is the perspective that Asaph gained. Finally, he could see how wrong he’d previously been:

Then I realised that my heart was bitter, and I was all torn up inside.
 I was so foolish and ignorant— I must have seemed like a senseless animal to you. Psalm 73:21-22

3. Presence

Fortunately, this is not where Asaph’s journey ends. As he concludes his Psalm, in verses 23-28, Asaph testifies to the presence of God that he experienced.

What a relief that our problems don’t get the last say. And what a relief that even the right perspective isn’t God’s end-game when we suffer. The point of it all—the way to face suffering well—is to let it drive us into the very presence of God:

“Yet I still belong to you; you hold my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, leading me to a glorious destiny. Whom have I in heaven but you?
I desire you more than anything on earth. My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak, but God is the strength of my heart; He is mine forever.Psalm 73:23-26

Your suffering might not be understood by a single soul on earth. But nothing escapes God. He knows of your struggle. He wants to meet you in it. He offers you the comfort of His presence.

In this Psalm, Asaph lands on a truth that you and I are still catching up with: there’s a gap between the real and the ideal, between how life is and how it should be. But standing in that gap is a God who listens intently to our problems, resets our perspective, and welcomes us into His presence.

If He were just any god, that might be cold comfort. But this is the God who Himself faced incomprehensible suffering. He didn’t remain aloof—instead, he took on flesh, walked among us, and dealt with all the world’s injustice at Calvary. Because of this, every wrong will ultimately be made right.

This side of the cross, we have even more reason than Asaph to confidently declare:

But as for me, how good it is to be near God! I have made the Sovereign Lord my shelter, and I will tell everyone about the wonderful things you do.Psalm 23:28

Taken from article “But God is the strength of my heart” by Kurt Mahlberg