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Joy and Suffering: can you have both at the same time?

Are they mutually exclusive? 

Choose joy  #6

Everyone wants to have joy.  We want to know it, own it, roll around in it, and give it away.  Yeah, that last one—the fact is, when we can help others have joy, we are onto something amazing.

In my last Morning Briefing, “But First, This” [], I posed that a big hindrance to choosing joy is that we are carrying around so much baggage, we do not even have the capacity for joy.  We do ourselves a solid by figuring out the junk we are dragging around – things like guilt, fear, worry, shame, bitterness, disappointment, unforgiveness, etc.  And then offloading those things, giving them over to the One who can take them from us. 

But what about when we cannot get rid of the weight, because it is a given in our lives—at least for now?  What about present suffering?  Just typing these words is heavy as I think of those who are managing life with all its increasing complexities, while something is terribly wrong in their lives. Though they manage on one level, the heartache is never far off.  There is the heartache of the parent with a drug-addicted son, another with a son who believes he is really a daughter, a loving woman who watches her bedridden brother suffer . . . I could name a myriad of very real scenarios, but you get the point. 

“I’ve been trying to choose joy, but there’s this…” and she explains.

“Joy? Not even possible. You have no idea what I’m going through.”

And then there is the stopper:  “Why does God allow such suffering?”

“Is he not big enough to do anything about it or does he not care?” Huh, suffering.

But first, there’s this.  I want to express my very sincere sorrow for your suffering, or the suffering of your loved one that you are caring for.   Infertility … when all of your life you have desired to be a mother?  Friend, I am so very sorry.  While I neither pretend to know the depth of that heartache, nor will I launch into a philosophical position on why I think God has allowed this suffering. 

Segue.  Last weekend in Oklahoma, I taught a class on leadership—what makes a good leader, looking at various elements of improving our effectiveness and more.  But first, we defined our terms.  What does it mean to lead?  At its simplest, to lead is to influence.  And well, we all influence someone.  Something to ponder.

In the next few briefings, I should like to define our terms and dig in a bit:

JOY, GOD and SUFFERING.  Is it possible to authentically CHOOSE JOY even while SUFFERING, because well—suffering is part of the human condition it seems.  

So let’s talk a little more about joy. (the past five Morning Briefings have been on this topic for those of you who just joined). Joy is not the giddy response of a 10-year-old little girl when everyone yells ‘Surprise!’ at a birthday party for her.  What is joy really?  It is not happiness, which is fleeting, oft based on our pleasures and things that are going on around us.

The JOY I have is within—within my heart and soul and mind. It is informed and it is deep, and no one can wrench it from me. One of my favorite chapters in the Bible is John 15. It contains some of Jesus’ last words to his disciples on the same night he would suffer greatly.

In vs. 11, Jesus says, These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.  What are the things that he has just spoken, that would lead to joy in him – not just any joy, but crazy over-flowing, full joy.  

Here are the verses capturing the thoughts to which Jesus was referring:

Jesus tells his men—as he says to you and me, “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love.  If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love.  These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full." Dang, if it isn’t all about the love!  The Father loves Jesus, and Jesus loves us, inviting us to abide or live fully in His love for us.  And apparently, Jesus feels most loved by us when we obey Him.  Makes sense.  And from that relationship, joy.

At its simplest, my joy comes from staying close to Jesus. You?  

song? of course. Love's Got a Way:

Stay tuned. 


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