When considering opportunities of great joy, it's not uncommon for people to default to celebratory moments of great cheer and gladness. I am often excited to hear of a loved one graduating after working tirelessly or a dear friend getting married after waiting on God for the right mate. Many of those occasions have been filled with remarkable joy. But this week, I was drawn to and reminded of the opportunities of joy that were hidden in seasons much less festive...
As I reflected on such moments, I realized that a great deal of my joy-filled milestones have occurred smack in the middle of the darkest difficulties. Spiritual diamonds in the rough. I didn't always notice it but I wasn't always looking for them. It's hard to see in the dark. But when my eyes are fixed on Jesus, I don't have to look far to see the Light shining.
It's no secret that it's been one of those challenging times in my life. I went to a few doctor's appointments this week with the hopes of getting more answers and finding little. A few MDs have been down-right stank, failing to inform properly and flip-flopping on a diagnosis; leaving me a little annoyed to say the least. I hopped in the car earlier this week, ticked off about the situation (no pun intended) and fixing my eyes on what I thought I needed rather than on the One who provides all my needs. Then, after fuming a couple of miles down the Cross Island Parkway, I remembered the verses I'd read that morning...
Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing. - James 1:2-4
There I was again, brooding over my situation and losing sight of the opportunities that would arise in the midst of the troubles coming my way. Opportunities for great joy. So often it's the "grin and bear it" or "grit your teeth and suck it up" picture that society paints as endurance. That's not true endurance, not the kind that grows in the midst of hardships anyway. It's in taking my eyes off the troubles and onto the Author and Perfecter of my faith that I will grow... in faith, in joy, in Christ. That day in the car, I was overwhelmed with the joy in God's presence. It's amazing how many opportunities of joy are provided for us along our journey when we choose to endure in faith.
As believers, we're not exempt from trials. Those times are guaranteed. But so is the peace of Christ and opportunities of great joy. Joy in suffering. Joy in trusting God is Sovereign. Joy that becomes strength. The strength when we're weak and broken. He comes in with His sufficient grace that's available to us daily.
So, whether I have Lyme Disease or Fibromyalgia or an ear infection, whether I work a 9-5 or freelance or sell lemonade, whether God is glorified by miraculously healing me or by giving me the grace to endure the pain, there will be opportunities for great joy.
May God give us eyes to see Him (and His opportunities) in the midst of the storm and grace to trust Him to bring us through.
What are some opportunities of great joy that God has provided for you in your own trials or tragedies?