A new chapter in my life begins today, the anniversary of my birth. It is therefore necessary that I pause to reflect upon this past year.
For me, the intervening year between the last and this one has been a buffet of different experiences. It has consisted of both blessings and burdens, delight and depression, ecstasy and agony, healing and hurt, plenty and poverty, success and failure, triumphs and temptations. But, through it all God has been good to me.
After looking back and cataloging my cares, enumerating my difficulties, adding up my victories, listing my heavy loads, summing up my successes and tallying up my trials, it all equaled great joy. Somehow, God took my troubles and transformed them into testimonies. He took my pains and replaced it with perseverance. He took my fears and strengthened my faith. He took my tears of hurt and turned them into tears of joy. Yes, when I calculated all the good, the bad and the ugly, it still equaled great joy.
James, the brother of Jesus begins his book with a stunning command. He says: Brothers and sisters count it all joy whenever you face trials of many kinds. This is interesting because inherent in the advice in the need for us to be able to count. All Christians has to be able to count because God has incorporated counting as an integral part of His plan for the development of discipline and discipleship. So He tells us that we need to count and not only count but count it all.
It is in the all that we find deliverance. It is not counting only the blessings and victories, but we must also count the bad and the ugly; counting it all totals up to joy.
Now, here is the catch. Counting, in the context of our faith, does not start until troubles come. Actually, it can be likened to boxing. The referee does not start counting until the boxer falls. It is the fall that begins the count. This is important to understand because God's joy cannot be experienced any other way.
We may not want to acknowledge it or even desire it, but every Christian needs a trial or two. Every child of God needs sprinklings of tribulations. Every believer needs to experience the fiery furnace and the lion’s den because that is when you begin to understand how God operates. That is when you begin to perceive how evil and good work together for your joy. Paul declared: “All things work together for the good to them that love the Lord and are called according to his purpose”? You will note that he also included that significant word, all. It is not just the good or the bad; it is the good AND the bad. When combined the result is joy, joy, joy.
Now, it must be understood that joy is a process and not a destination. We are constantly growing, changing, evolving, developing joy every day. It cannot be made, created, bought or sold because it comes from God. Joy is not parading around pretending to be happy when you know you are not, thinking that is the way Christians should present.
Joy is not instantaneous or immediate. It is not feeling giddy, silly or happy, as it were. Joy is much more profound. Joy is the product of pain and troubles. It is the result of suffering and distress. Joy is intrinsically connected with what you have been through or what you are going through. Joy is the outcome of faith and patience. It is a supernatural portion of God’s peace and strength. Weeping may endure for a night, but joy does come in the morning.
I have learned that if you can pray it through, God will see you through. But do not start counting too soon. Remember, the count really starts when you fall into difficult circumstances. Then start counting:
1… The crises come.
2… What do you do?
3… You want to flee.
4… No escape door.
5… Will you survive?
6… You pray, “God please fix. ”
7… You hear from heaven.
8… God said, “Wait. ”
9… Here comes True Vine.
10… JOY WITHIN!
Thank God in heaven.
Rev. Saundra L. Washington, D. D. , is an ordained clergywoman, veteran social worker, and Founder of AMEN Ministries. She is also the author of two coffee table books: Room Beneath the Snow: Poems that Preach and Negative Disturbances: Homilies that Teach which can be reviewed on her site. Her new book, Out of Deep Waters: My Grief Management Workbook, is expected to be available soon.
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Blessings to all!