Experiencing Joy in the Midst of Suffering

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Rejoice in hope, endure in suffering, persist in prayer. (Romans 12:12, NET Bible)

One of my favorite things about my relationship with the Lord is the JOY that He gives me; the joy that I feel coursing through my veins; joy that is palpable and evident and real.  It is His joy and I am so thankful to Him that He shares it with me.

I appreciate it so much more when it is felt during times of difficulty, pain and suffering.  At times like this, His joy makes me want to rejoice! 😄

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! (Philippians 4:4, NASB)

I am reminded of Corrie Ten Boom’s book, The Hiding Place, in which Corrie eloquently describes the dual-existence of joy in the midst of suffering.  In this true story that is a “must-read,” you’ll learn that Corrie, her sister Betsie, and their elderly father were all arrested and sent to prison for hiding a group of Jewish people in their home during the Nazi occupation of Holland. Soon after their father’s untimely death, Corrie and Betsie spent time in the notorious women’s concentration camp, Ravensbruck.

“Life in Ravensbruck took place on two separate levels, mutually impossible. One, the observable, external life, grew every day more horrible. The other, the life we lived with God, grew daily better, truth upon truth, glory upon glory.”  ― Corrie ten Boom, The Hiding Place: The Triumphant True Story of Corrie Ten Boom

Such a marvelous book! ❤️😁

The Ten Boom family could see the true light in the midst of this dark world.  And as their brothers and sisters, as Jesus followers, as believers in the gospel of grace, we also know the truth!

The truth has set us free, and yet we are stuck on this earth temporarily.  So, while we are here, let’s be patient; let’s hang in there; let’s not give up.

We all have pain, we all have suffering, and we all have difficulties to varying degrees.  But we also have hope.  Not only the hope of our future life in heaven, but the hope that is alive for us today:  the kingdom of God in our very hearts.  A hope with promise; that when we have persevered through tribulations, God will use the pain we have endured to reveal more of His love to us!

“And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” (Romans 5:3-5 NASB)

Did God create sin and evil?

Did God create sin and evil?

A homeschooled teenage girl asked me this question last week:  she basically said, “I would never want to say that God is at fault for all of the sin and evil in the world, yet as the Creator of this world, why isn’t He the One to blame?” 

I was the substitute teacher in her Government class (part of a large homeschool co-op that meets two days a week.)  I wanted to begin the class with a discussion before I played the DVD that the teacher had provided for me.  I began by asking the teens…

“What is government?”  “And why do we need to be governed?”  “What is wrong with us humans anyway?  Animals don’t need to be governed!”

We never got to the DVD.  Instead, we spent the hour in discussion.  Teenagers have a lot of questions!  And, I have found that with a correct understanding of the gospel, all of our questions can be answered.

Why is God doing things this way?  Simply put, He is doing things this way, because the end result will be an eternity of love and communion spent with His dearly beloved children.  He is doing things this way, because He has made us so much greater than the animals and even all of the angelic host; He will know us and we will know Him.  What He has done is that He has made us his FRIENDS.

– – –  and just pause for a minute to consider being best friends with the One who made 150 billion galaxies –  –  –

The discussion I had with those teenagers that day kept returning to the question of evil.  They want to know why — WHY! — is there sin and evil in this world?  First, you must consider the unique design of Adam and Eve.  God made them alive.  He breathed life into them.   He gave them “the breath of life.”  He created the animals to also contain the “breath of life,” but it is a totally different set of Hebrew words compared with the Genesis 2:7 “breath of life” that the first man and woman received.

Second, you must acknowledge that the life that was contained within the breast of Adam and Eve was the very life of God Himself.  Since Adam and Eve were created to contain the Spirit of God within their body (Genesis 2:7), they had the capacity to have a close, personal, deep friendship with their God.

And, third, you must realize that ‘the law of sin and death’ caused Adam and Eve to die when they ate from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.  When they died, when their life was lost – through their sin and unbelief – they were no longer able to live according to their unique design.  From then on, mankind became capable of committing tremendous evil.

Think about it, Cain murdered his brother Able.  Yikes!  Talk about starting things off on the wrong foot.

That first murder reveals that humanity was no longer able to function in the way that we were designed.  By Genesis chapter 6, about a 1,000 years after creation….

Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.  Genesis 6:5

Because after Adam and Eve sinned and died, every child of theirs was born in the image of Adam:  sinful and dead (Genesis 5:3).  Unlike Adam and Eve, humans are no longer born “in the image of God.”  We are born in the image of death, of emptiness, of sinfulness.

Why did God allow this to happen?  Why did He create a world where evil could exist?

Could He not have done things differently?

Well, yeah, but that would require us to be made like the animals.

Animals are perfect because they are governed by instinct.  God wanted us to be His friends; animals, however, do not have the capacity to be friends with a holy God who dwells in unapproachable light.  He wants to be with us, to be near us, to be as close to us as our very breath.

Since the day of Pentecost – since the day that the Holy Spirit was given back to believers – we do have the capacity to fellowship and interact with the holy God who dwells in unapproachable light . . . because when we believe in the gospel, the Holy Spirit comes to dwell inside of us.  Born sinful, dead and empty, we become forgiven, alive and filled!

And even though you were dead in your transgressions and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, he nevertheless made you alive with him, having forgiven all your transgressions. Colossians 2:13 (NET Bible)

He has made His home within our bodies.  We are the temple of the Holy Spirit.  We are the Bride of Christ.  We are His beloved.

Sin, suffering and evil exist because men refuse to trust God; they rely on themselves instead.  Men refuse to believe in the gospel; they would rather believe in lies and fantasies.  Sin, suffering and evil exist because, without the Spirit of God dwelling inside of us, we are all dysfunctional.

To explore this topic more and learn why humans are so inclined towards sin and evil, check out these 27-minute audio messages by Aaron Budjen: The Lamp of God and The Image of God.