Joy in the Time of Testing

when I was young, I visited nursing homes every Saturday for 3 ½ years, and I do not think we ever missed singing “I Come to the Garden Alone.” I grew weary of that song, and it occurs to me that sometimes we need the perspective of age to appreciate certain things.

Meeting Jesus early in the morning and in solitude can set the stage for the rest of our day. When we are still enough that we can hear the voice of God, then we can achieve the joy we need to meet any circumstance.

1 Corinthians 10:1-13 (NRSV) 1 I do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, that our ancestors were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, 2 and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, 3 and all ate the same spiritual food, 4 and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual rock that followed them, and the rock was Christ. 5 Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them, and they were struck down in the wilderness….11 These things happened to them to serve as an example, and they were written down to instruct us, on whom the ends of the ages have come. 12 So if you think you are standing, watch out that you do not fall. 13 No testing has overtaken you that is not common to everyone. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it.

We can have joy in spite of life’s circumstances, but living in joy is a choice. Today I would like to address a half-truth about the scripture I just read. Basically, people interpret this scripture as saying that God will never give us more than we can bear. Really? Has this been true in your life? It certainly has not been true in mine.

When we struggle with life’s hardships, to the point where we are crippled by fear and filled with anger at the unfairness of it all, thinking that God has told us He will not give us more than we can bear is not reassuring, but instead, it makes us doubt and question God.

There are two truths I would like to point out to you:

First, Paul was not telling the Corinthians that God would not give them more hardship than they could bear. Instead, he was speaking to them about the culture in which they lived, and he was giving them encouragement about how they could live a Christian lifestyle even in the midst of sin all around them.

Remember, Corinth was in the middle of a metropolis filled with pagan idolatry and immorality, and so Paul was talking not about hardships, but instead overcoming the temptation to live as people who existed only for themselves, and not for God. Paul reminds the church at Corinth that not only are their temptations not any different than for anyone else, but that if they will rely on God, He will help them endure and overpower and be stronger for what they have undergone.

Secondly, we make a mistake when we adhere to the belief system that everything bad that comes upon us is directed by God. Remember the scripture from Hebrew 12 that says God is the author and finisher of our faith? Nowhere in the Scripture do we find that God is the author and finisher of our confusion, or hurt, or pain. Does God use our adversities to help strengthen us and shape our character? Absolutely, when we look at Gen. 50:19-20 (NRSV) 19 But Joseph said to them, “Do not be afraid! Am I in the place of God? 20 Even though you intended to do harm to me, God intended it for good…”

God did not put the thought into Joseph’s brothers’ minds to throw their brother into a pit and sell him. But God gave Joseph the strength he needed to bear up under these hardships, and he will do the same for me and you.

I end with one of my favorite scriptures, Isaiah 40:31(NRSV) but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength,
they shall mount up with wings like eagles,
they shall run and not be weary,
they shall walk and not faint.

Remember, whatever befalls us, whether it be trials or temptations, when we choose joy, suffering does not get the last word.

Hear now this blessing: God is the giver joy. Receive this gift and know that His joy will bring completeness to your heart and to your life. Take the name of Jesus with you and share Him with all you meet.

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