Growing up in a strong church, I remember hearing occasionally from missionaries and others with testimonies of God's faithfulness through very difficult circumstances. I had never really understood what these people meant by that. How does somebody really experience God's faithfulness through grief? Why do they have to go through it at all? How does God actually meet their needs, particularly the emotional ones? While I always struggled through these questions, I had an understanding of Christianity that was primarily based on duty and conforming to a given set of rules. "Do what's right, for right's sake, because it is the right thing to do." I could not see how the God who gave us these rules to follow (or else!) could actually meet us in our grief. Yes, I understood that Jesus suffered 2000 years ago, but what did that have to do with me right now? I can remember Sunday School teachers telling us that if we were going to be Christians, then we would suffer because suffering is part of the Christian life. I wondered to myself, "Then why become a Christian?" These were honest issues for a junior high kid that would soon completely abandon any belief in the Christian God.
I am so thankful that years later God used faithful Christians to challenge my beliefs and worldview so that I became convinced of the truth and beauty of the Christian faith. Certainly Jesus did call his followers to a life of suffering. We are to take up our cross to follow him, but he does not leave us on our own. He not only promises that he will be with us always, but that there will be tremendous joy and peace in the journey, even through some measure of expected suffering that he graciously allows. Just look at the life of Paul. His entire Christian experience was full of trials and suffering, but he comes across as one of the most joyful people that I have ever read. Paul had clearly found Jesus more satisfying to his soul than anything else this world has to offer, particularly a life of ease and riches.
In this time of trial for Julie and me, I want to strive more than ever to find my joy and peace in God. He has been faithful to meet our emotional and physical needs so far. We have a great support group of friends and family around us and so many people are regularly praying for us. Without the promises of God to strengthen us, take care of us, watch over us, protect us and to be with us in our suffering, there would be no real joy and peace. These promises let us face a very difficult tomorrow completely fearless and full of joy. Praise the Lord for his wonderful goodness to us!
"Jesus promised his disciples three things-they would be completely fearless, absurdly happy, and in constant trouble."