Have you ever had a long day at the office, stressful day parenting, or a disagreement with a friend that seemed to knock you off your feet? Steal your happiness? There are very few things as disorienting as flying over a speed bump that you didn't even see coming. Simply put, it is just plain frustrating when inconveniences arise. What's even more frustrating? When we know that we are doing everything right, to the best of our human abilities, and things still aren't adding up.
As we take active strides closer and closer to Jesus, we too often fall into the trap of believing that it's going to be an easy journey. We think that taking away the temptation and adding in the devotionals equal the perfect and seamless life. But as you may have realized several weeks into our journey together, more of Jesus does not always mean fewer speed bumps.
It doesn't take more than a few minutes studying Scripture or talking with friends who have paved the spiritual way for us, to realize that our happiness is not guaranteed while living a godly life. However, we can find peace within this truth knowing that God has not called us to a happy-filled life, but a joy-filled life. Big difference, friends.
Two prime examples of men living godly lives, yet still struggling with suffering, pain, and rejection stick out to me as foundational to our understanding of eternal joy over momentary happiness.
Job is an Old Testament fellow, who more or less, went through it. To say Job sped over a few speed bumps would be an understatement. To catch you up, Job was an outstanding man of God, denying himself daily, and seeking the will of the Father above all else. It goes without saying that Job's character was quite disturbing to the Enemy, and Satan decided to take this up with God. Satan was positive that it was only due to the lavishing of blessings upon Job that he maintained such a faithful countenance, but God knew his good and faithful servant Job. God assured Satan that Job would continue to make a choice to follow him, come what may. God had so much confidence in Job that he allowed Satan to have his way with him, going as far as to take away his own family through brutal measures.
Let's now shift gears (this car theme is really sticking...) and talk about Paul. Unlike Job, Paul's history was not rainbows, butterflies, and obedience to God. Before Paul was Paul, he was Saul, a fierce persecutor of the Christian church. However, after a miraculous and nothing-but-divine encounter with Jesus, Saul became Paul, one of the fiercest missionaries of all time. As if the tables hadn't turned enough in Paul's life, while just a few years prior he was hurling bullets of hate into the hearts of Christ followers, Paul was now the one continually bound in shackles for his devotion to Christ.
Real inspiring, I know. Follow Jesus and end up with no family and a prison sentence or two. But these stories don't end here!
These men made a choice.
Every. Single. Day. Job and Paul decided their Savior was worth it. All of the emotional, physical, and spiritual suffering and tormenting could not compare to the joy found within their Father. Job and Paul's constant refocusing on the things of Heaven, and consequently the removal of their eyes from the things here on Earth, allowed them to get over any speed bump man or the Enemy himself put in their path. Don't believe me?
Job said it himself, in Job 6:10... "Then I would still have this consolation-- my joy in unrelenting pain-- that I had not denied the words of the Holy One." (New International Version).
Joy in unrelenting pain... I'll have a dose of that, please. Just another notable element of this story is that like all of Scripture, it is practical and applicable! We don't just read the book of Job to learn about a faithful dude who went through a season of hurt. We read the book of Job to learn about a faithful dude who went through a season of hurt and how we can model his example and tap into that joy in unrelenting pain. Job stayed faithful to the words of the Holy One, being careful that he deny himself, not his Lord. This was a choice, no doubt a painful, sacrificial choice, but I believe that if Job were here with us today, he would tell us it was the best choice he ever made.
As for Paul, in one of his most adored letters to the Philippian church, words like "rejoice" and "joy" are used 16 times. If that's not enough to encourage us to a life of choosing joy, Paul wrote Philippians during one of those aforementioned prison sentences! Once again, here within these four chapters, we have a practical example of choosing joy in all circumstances.
Let's practice making that choice. Let's strive to no longer be burdened by the bumps along the way, but slow down, decide where our eyes are going to fall, here in the pain or above in the joy, and actively choose to pursue joy. Through a relentless pursuit of Jesus and the truth of his word, we have access to an unshakable, unspeakable, joy. Live in it. -Taylor