Hope for Living: Can we be joyful in dark times?

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By Jim Jackson

Have you ever noticed how some people are surely not paying attention to what’s going on in our world today? They surely can’t be keeping up with the news. They walk around with a sunny smile on their faces, with happy thoughts to share, as though everything in the world is just peachy.

Of course, you appreciate their optimism, even envy it a bit, but you wonder how on earth they do it. Henry Nouwen wrote, “Those who keep speaking about the sun while walking under a cloudy sky are messengers of hope, the true saints of our day.”

I think I know where that sweet spirit comes from — Christians have the joy of the Lord. And this joy does not rely on everything turning up roses, so to speak. It is a divine joy, the gladness of heart that comes from making peace with God, through the salvation found in God’s son, Jesus Christ. And when you are saved by grace through the finished works of Jesus on the cross of Calvary, the Holy Spirit takes up residence within all born-again Christians.

I sometimes use this line when someone asks me how things are going for me: “I’d have to die and go to Heaven to have it any better.” And that statement is looking past all of the darkness and pain and sorrow that may surround me at that very moment.

Psalm 34:8 says, “Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good; Blessed is the man who trusts in Him!”

Christians should be living such a joyful life that those who are witnessing that sweet spirit should be saying, “I don’t know what they have, but I want some of that.”

When people know that your plate is full, so to speak, of your share of pain or grief or sorrow, but yet you keep a bright outlook in spite of it all, it can lead to someone wanting to know, “How do you do it?” This is an opportunity to share your faith with them and introduce them to the one who brings that divine joy into your life. In John 10:10, Jesus said, “The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.”

Jesus is talking about having a great life here on earth in spite of what Satan (the thief ) is trying to do to make your life miserable. Of course it is going to be a perfect pain-free and joyful existence when you go to Heaven, but Jesus is showing us that it is his desire to fill our earthly life with abundance in the here and now. This abundance is not just a life full of things, but a life of fullness in Christ and His Salvation. This should cause all Christians to live with a smile on their face.

Have you made peace with God? God loves you and wants you to know Him so He can fill you with peace and give you real life — forever. God loved all of the people of this world so much that He gave His only son, so that everyone who has faith in Him will have eternal life in God’s presence forever and ever.”

John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”

It is not that Christians don’t ever have trials and tribulations in their life. It is the fact that they will never go through any of the adversities alone. God will be with them, even in the valley of the shadow of death. Psalm 23:4 says, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me…”

Did you see why we Christians need not fear even death? The answer is “for you (The Lord) are with me”

I don’t know how many times I have heard Christians that had just lost a loved one or had to face a terrible illness say, “I don’t know what I would have done without the Lord being with me.”

Psalm 37:39 says, “The salvation of the righteous comes from the Lord; he is their stronghold in time of trouble.”

Psalm 118:14 says, “The Lord is my strength and song, and He has become my salvation.”

Jeremiah 32:27 says, “I am the Lord, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me?”

Can we be joyful in dark times? The answer is yes for the Christian. Christians are not immune to pain and suffering. The Lord is our strength (our stronghold), and He can put a joyful song in our spirit to see us through those dark times.

2 Corinthians 4:16-17 says, “Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory…”

Any affliction we might have to endure is but for a moment in comparison to eternity. And the weight of glory to come will overshadow any of the adversities we might have to deal with during this earthly stay.

Yes, we Christians have much to keep a smile on our face — through it all.

Jim Jackson is pastor of Shirley Friends Church. This weekly column is written by local clergy members.

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