For the past four years, I have had the Greek word “χαρά” tattooed on my left wrist. This word means “joy” and comes from James 1:2-4,
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
I had to explain this to a student the other day and he inquired “Joy? So…like happy?” and I had to explain the difference (as in many of the local languages, they are both translated the same way) and that happiness is an emotion that results from good experiences and joy is an attitude that is chosen. Within even saying this, I was both encouraged in how much God has grown me in the past few years, though quite convicted about how sparingly I’ve chosen joy in the past…even with this tattoo as a reminder.
I’ve already been sick 3 or 4 times since I’ve been here, my suitcase of clothes and other stuff was soaked on our way here, the water in the house that I’m in doesn’t always work, there are no people from my own culture in the town I live in, my computer screen has been broken, our power is very unreliable, and the list goes on.
All of these things listed are things that would have straight up made me frustrated in the past. However, I’ve kept an attitude of joy and have really felt blessed by where the Lord has me and what he’s been doing in me.
Please do not take this post as me boasting in myself. I am boasting in the Lord and saying, come and listen to what he’s done in and for me. God is so incredibly good and I hate that it took coming here to realize quite how good he is.
I also don’t want to communicate that my life here is terrible and I’m having a great attitude despite everything going wrong for me.
Barely anything (nothing of importance) was destroyed in my bag from it getting soaked, my computer screen could be much worse (it’s only the glass, not the LCD screen), the juice here is amazing, the people I work with are amazing, I got to have a great 2.5 hour conversation with our director on Wednesday on my way to Mbarara, I got to spend 5.5 hours with a good friend of mine yesterday (including indian food), my friend Andrew will be spending a week with me soon, we just got a water tank, I’ve met some amazing people since I’ve been here, God has been growing me in my prayer life and I can tell he has a lot ahead, an article is going to be in the Chicago Tribune about me and my experience…the list goes on much further than the one with what hasn’t gone “right”.
Always remember your blessings, and even consider the hard times to be blessings because you know that God is always doing something. Growing in godliness is not an easy thing…in fact, as I’ve finally been learning…it hurts quite a bit at times.
It hurts to have your heart broken what what breaks God’s heart. It hurts to get a picture of what our unfaithfulness feels like to him. Many people see God as a vengeful God who loves hurting people and squishing us like ants…I have yet to see that from the Lord. I’ve seen that from rulers, from “gods,” from common people, and from the devil who tries to drag everyone down with him…but the God I know, he is one whose heart is burdened by our unfaithfulness and by our skewed concepts of him. He is so full of love that he hurts when we hurt. If you’ve never read it, “Lament for a Son” is a great book I read on suffering and it helped me understand that part of God quite a bit better.
This post has been much longer than I expected it to be, but I hope that what I’ve said is worth your while to read. I had no idea where I was going with this at the start, but I have a feeling the Holy Spirit had something to say.
Be blessed. God is good.
I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.
We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.
In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirithimself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified. (Romans 8:18-30)