Have you ever considered how nonsensical these words seem? Let us be honest. We’re all adults here. When was the last time that you rejoiced in your suffering? I’m not talking about the kind of suffering that you find normal. Someone cutting you off in traffic, stubbing your big toe in the garden, your computer running slow, and other “first world problems” are not sufferings. I mean really. When the phone rings and you learn about you father’s death. When you hear those words for the first time: “We think it is cancer.” When you see your child fall, and they don’t get back up. When you come to find out that your significant other is cheating on you.
These, of course, are still “first world problems”. It isn’t that they happen nowhere else in the world, but that when I talk about the sufferings of those in the Middle East, most likely cancer won’t be on the top of the list. Yet, these moments are real, and they are traumatic. Am I honestly supposed to rejoice? What about when I was in school and got bullied – such to the point that I had someone shoot an arrow at me in archery class. Am I honestly supposed to rejoice that day after day I get bullied in school, only to then come home to a father that yells at me all the time?
Instead of rejoicing I tucked myself away into a crevice that no one else could come in. I ran. I hid. I shut everyone out. I began to allow the feelings of anger and bitterness fester. It didn’t take long before I was turning to alcohol, porn, and anything else that wasn’t drugs and cigarettes in order to find some sort of escape. I had to find my way out of here. I was the joker, and my friends were the thieves I was talking to (Bob Dylan reference).
So, we’re all adults. Let us be really honest with ourselves and God right now. When was the last time that you rejoiced in suffering? When was the last time that you found the inner fortitude to sing hymns at midnight instead of licking your wounds like a dog? Has it ever been that you’ve even found the capacity to laugh and/or rejoice when your phone breaks? What is it about those first century apostles that they could tell us to rejoice in suffering, and yet we throw a tantrum when our food doesn’t come out of the kitchen hot and we’re on a date.
This question boggles my mind. Here is the thing. I can perceive of every reason why I’m supposed to rejoice, but I can’t understand how to get to that place where I do actually rejoice in stead of bitch and moan. Let me break it down for you. We’re in a cosmic war. There is a battle going on for the souls of men, and ultimately even for the cosmos itself. Lucifer has claimed that he wants to exalt himself to the place of the Most High, even to ruling from the mountain of the assembly (see Isaiah 14:12-14). The principalities and powers all around us tempt and taunt.
What are you going to do about it? When darkness rejoices over you, what is your response? Insert Ephesians 3:10 here. I would encourage you to go back and read the context. Essentially, Paul says in Ephesians 3:10 that God has destined all of creation so that there would be a people called “the Church”, and that this “Church” would manifest the wisdom of God on the earth. However, the apostle says something bizarre here. While we would think that we’re to manifest the wisdom of God so that all men might see it and repent, instead the apostle says that the purpose is to be a witness unto the principalities and powers. Why do demons need to see this manifestation?
There is a power released when the saints of God manifest the wisdom of God. What is that wisdom? It is selflessness, sacrifice, mercy, grace, love, hope, long-suffering, gentleness, joy, peace, patience, fortitude, faith, faithfulness, and all the things that make up the very character of God. How do we display that? First, you display it by being united. When you can love one another instead of fight with one another, you have broken free from the wisdom of darkness and into a higher ground. But the struggle isn’t over. Second: Rejoice in your suffering.
I leave this with a question. I can see ever reason why we should rejoice, but can’t figure out how to go from knowing why to actually doing it. What is it that the apostles had that is so bankrupt within my own soul? Do you ask this question of yourself? You should. We’ve established a Christianity that applauds Paul for the walk he had with Christ, but then reject it is possible for you to even come close to that proximity to the heart of God. On what Scriptural basis do you make that assumption? So really, what is it that they had that you and I are missing? Love? Baptism in the Holy Spirit? Trust in Christ? Obedience? For God’s sake, we better figure it out. Is it an eternal perception that we’re missing? Do you, my dear reader, have any clue to help me? I want to sing this song below, but I know that if I do, I would be a liar. How many of you would too?