The Promise of Joy
So my heart exults, my very soul rejoices,
my body, too, will rest securely,
for you will not abandon my soul…
you will reveal the path of life to me,
give me unbounded joy in your presence,
and at your right hand everlasting pleasures.
Psalm 16:9-11, Jerusalem Bible
When we suffer, one of the things we hunger for the most is the feeling of joy. We long to experience happiness, to laugh, to feel lighthearted, to feel comforted, to feel hope, to look forward to the future with delight rather than dread. But suffering is not conducive to joy. Suffering is one of the challenges on the journey of life that makes joy very hard to find.
This was true for me when I was in and out of the hospital, fighting my battle against cancer. I felt fear, anxiety, frustration, doubt, uncertainty, but I rarely felt joy. It was true for Jan when she fought her battle against depression. She felt the vast, dark emptiness of depression, but she couldn’t feel joy. And the feeling of joy has been just as elusive for many, many others who have journeyed through suffering and pain.
But the good news about joy is that it is out there – somewhere – even when we can’t feel it.
Jan and I have found that the ultimate joy, the promise of joy that will never fail, is found in the salvation that Jesus Christ offers us. True joy comes in knowing that God cares enough about me that He has opened the doors of heaven to me. The promise of joy is that someday, no matter what good or bad experiences I go through on this earth, I will live with Jesus in a place where there are no more tears and there is no more suffering.
Because God’s ultimate promise of joy is out there, it is possible to see glimpses of joy – even when we suffer. I am not in any way saying that experiencing joy is easy. To experience the feeling of joy in the midst of acute suffering is very difficult. For example, I couldn’t fix my thoughts on things that would allow me to experience joy because I was so consumed by the suffering itself. But at times I did experience a sense of joy, and it came through the loving care and comfort of others.
Those precious glimpses of joy came through friends who, even though they may not have understood, still allowed me to talk about whatever I needed to talk about. It came through the faces of those who loved me and didn’t beat around the bush but helped me deal with reality. It came through the words of the Bible that were shared with me when I didn’t have the energy to seek them out myself.
When we receive comfort and encouragement from others, we receive a bit of joy. The love, concern, and encouragement of others stands out to me as the clearest reminder of God’s care and concern for me. And this is true for many other people who have endured a time of suffering. So often people say, “I don’t know how I would have gotten through this had it not been for the encouragement of the people around me.” This is just the way the Bible tells us comfort will come. The Bible describes God as “the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God” (2 Corinthians 1:4 NIV).
That comfort is part of the joy Jan and I, and the staff at Outreach of Hope, want to share with you. We know how easily pain and suffering can rob us o joy. Because we discovered the reality of joy in the midst of our personal struggles, we want to share that joy with you. As Christmas, the season of joy, approaches, we hope that you, too, will discover the reality of joy. Our desire is that the stories and insights of others that we share with you through this issue will point your heart toward joy.