For Joy We Climb
by Shannon Hutchison
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Experiencing true joy and the power to overcome in this world of sadness requires obeying Christ as we abide in Him. Life often brings upon us floodwaters of life, giant-sized trials that uses sorrow to destroy our emotional stability. To overcome these floodwaters, we must face personal mountains of suffering, fear, and ignorance of the truth – rough terrain we must pass through to remain joyful and free. For the sake of stability, we must constantly choose to “remain in Jesus’ love”. If we do, we will experience Christ’s joy and power to persevere, giving us the capacity to find delight and victory from all sadness.
Sadness – that seven letter world that can make life miserable and the world seem bleak to those consumed by it. Driven by fear and often triggered by adversity, sadness is violent enough to destroy one’s hopes, dreams, and soul. So how do we find victory from this demolisher of freedom when confronted by this emotional monster? What do we need to do to experience and continue to experience joy during this battle? The answer to both these questions starts with stability and ends with Christ.
Everything needs stability. Without a solid foundation for support, houses and people will weaken and eventually crumble from pressure – assuming the pressure is strong enough. This is true in all aspects of human living - including our quest to remain joyful amidst the pressures of adversity and sorrow.
In this world, because of sin, people are constantly forced to deal with adversity-stimulated sadness. During those hard times we struggle to remain joyful, we should focus our attention upon the trials of Paul. In 2 Corinthians 6:3-10, it states that Paul “had been beaten”, “put in jail”, “faced angry mobs”, “been worked to exhaustion”, “endured sleepless nights”, and “gone without food”. Nevertheless, amidst all this, Paul said in verse 10, “Our hearts ache, but we always have joy”. How was he able to experience joy after facing all these tribulations?
Stability in our relationship with God enables us to be stable against the pressures of life. Those who let the Holy Spirit control their life will receive from Him God’s perfect joy and peace; fruit of the spirit that will remain in our hearts as long as we stay connected to the Vine (Galatians 5:22, John 15:5). If we only “remain in Jesus’ love by obeying Him, we “will be filled with His joy, which will overflow” (John 15:9-11). This joy – which cannot be produced by human effort (John 15:5) –is the same joy Jesus had when He overcame the worst of all sadness, being crucified and considered guilty for our sins. And this joy can be ours if we only abide in Him.
Obedience binds us to God, His joy, etc.; disobedience separates us from all this until we reconcile and begin obeying again. For the sake of emotional stability in our lives, we must habitually choose to obey, especially when facing the floodwaters of life. According to Luke 6:46-49, someone who obeys Jesus is like “a person who builds his house on strong foundation laid upon the underlying rock. When the floodwaters rise and break against the house, it stands firm because it is well built.” Unfortunately, an individual who listens and doesn’t obey is like “a person who builds a house without a foundation. When the floods sweep down against the house, it will crumble into a heap of ruins”. So our lives won’t crumble against the adversity-producing floodwaters of life, lets build our house on solid ground through obedience.
Striving to remain in Christ’s love through obedience is hard, especially when life hurts the soul. Floodwaters like grief, financial hardships, cancer, abuse, divorce, disability, and depression can all make this world seem unbearable, especially when the pain feels never-ending. To overcome these struggles, we must pass through many life mountains - mountains in the form of suffering, fear, and ignorance of the truth that must be climbed in hopes of someday finding freedom on the other side. Passing through these obstacles involves first overcoming the mountain of fear in order to make it beyond the mountain of suffering; and to defeat the hills of fear, mountains of ignorance of the truth need to be first crossed. This is the journey we must take to overcome our floodwaters of life.
Climbing life mountains involve us taking one step at a time in life through much rough terrain and perilous heights known as adversity. Each action we make in life in response to our trial represents a mountaineering step. Sound decisions move us upward; poor ones bring us downward. To victoriously pass through these mountains, we must relentlessly continue the fight until we finish the journey, not to mention rely upon God’s wisdom to maintain stability. Trying to do this all alone can be extremely strenuous, overwhelming, and it some cases, impossible. Thankfully, abiding in Christ not only gives us His wisdom and His joy, but also the capacity to persevere.
Mountains of suffering can be overcome when we learn to persevere. To triumph over great sufferings, we must first learn to overcome milder troubles. Trials are used by God, to build our perseverance so we can be “strong in character and ready for anything” (James 1:3-4). As God develops inside us the character to persevere, we will experience more and more hope to overcome our mountains of suffering. Romans 5:3-4 (NIV) reinforces this concept: “Suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character, and character, hope”. In our strength, we are often too weak to conquer giant-sized trials. However, when we abide, we will find empowerment from Christ to defeat all floodwaters and mountains (Philippians 4:13).
As we climb up mountains of suffering, how we handle fear often influences the pain level of our sadness. Fear can make situations seem more pessimistic than they are in reality, and the helplessness and hopelessness that accompanies these perceptions often make the journey seem futile and disheartening. To move beyond the mountains of fear, and to remain perseverant over misery, we must control these fears through the truth.
“Of all the liars of the world, sometimes the worst are our own fears” (Rudyard Kipling). Fear is often deceitful, making floodwaters seem overly violent and mountains seem impassable. When we expose Satan as a liar and then move onward with life, we will find power in the fact that mountains can be defeated and joy can be experienced, regardless of the situation. However, for these two things can take place, we must first overcome the mountain of ignorance of the truth. This requires having faith in the truthful promises of God.
Jesus said in Matthew 17:20, “If you have faith even as small as a mustard seed you could say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’, and it would move. Nothing would be impossible.’” History is full of Christians who have experienced a lifestyle of joy and contentment - in spite of great suffering and fear- because of their faith in God. You can too if you believe.
During those times, in spite of the truth, where sadness make your life seem hopeless, read what Paul said in 1 Corinthians 10:13: “But remember that the temptations that come into your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will keep the temptation from becoming so strong you can’t stand against it. When you are tempted, He will show you a way out so that you will not give in to it.” Regardless of how violent those floodwaters beat upon the house of the Christian, no suffering is too great to handle when we abide in Christ. He is always there to comfort us.
“God does not comfort us to make us comfortable, but to make us comforters” (John Henry Jowett). We can all remember countless times where, when emotionally down, someone unexpectedly came into our life and lifted our spirits when we needed it the most. Although small in action, their acts of kindness became indispensable to us, giving us back then the nourishment to continue the fight, helping us to make it to this current point in time. Their comforting words gave us inspiration, leading us to believe that there is good in every bad situation. Although these individuals most likely will never realize the impact of their behaviors upon us, we comprehend it today. During those times, their collective comfort was a catalyst that helped us to find joy amidst the sadness that many times plagued our soul.
These comforters don’t come to us by accident. God uses past hurts to give individuals the compassion to help us during our times of need. God then at the right moment leads these comforters in our lives when we need them the most. Once these encouragers help us, it is our time to console others. 2 Corinthians 1:4 supports this concept of our responsibility to comfort others: “He (God) comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When others are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.”
“A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step” (Lao Tzu). In a disobedient world that desperately needs stability, humanity is faced with a societal mountain to climb. A planet full of tragedy and sadness, a society who definitely needs joy the way God originally intended to be. Floodwaters like those of hatred, self-centeredness violence, death, drug abuse, crime, divorce, illness, earthquakes, and grief undermine freedom and hope; as a result, there are mountains of suffering and fear we must collectively climb. However, the biggest mountain that we all face is the mountain of ignorance: ignorance in the fact we need Christ. If Christians don’t place priority in spreading the gospel, being a living example of how to find joy amidst sadness, being a comforter to those in need, the world we live in will presumably, someday crumble into a heap of ruins.
“Joy does not simply happen to us. We have to choose joy and keep choosing it every day” (Henri Nouwen). In this world, there are many reasons to be sad. Floodwaters rise, attempting to destroy our emotional stability. Mountains become obstacles that get in our path to overcome these floodwaters. In our strength, we cannot experience overabundant joy or find true power to overcome. However, when we remain in Christ’s love, we can. Lets abide and not disobey, before it is too late!
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