Joy and Suffering
18 August 2015
Reading: 1 Thessalonians 1; Psalm 41
So you received the message with joy from the Holy Spirit in spite of the severe suffering it brought you. In this way, you imitated both us and the Lord. (1 Thessalonians 1:6 NLT)
The Christ-followers in the city of Thessalonica joyfully received the message of Jesus Christ even though their faith brought opposition and persecution.
2…and we sent Timothy to visit you. He is our brother and God’s co-worker in proclaiming the Good News of Christ. We sent him to strengthen you, to encourage you in your faith, 3 and to keep you from being shaken by the troubles you were going through. But you know that we are destined for such troubles. (1 Thessalonians 3:2-3 NLT)
The persecution and suffering they experienced was so great that Paul was afraid their infant faith might be too fragile and that they would become discouraged and give up.
I need a reality check on this “Joy and Suffering” thing once in a while. We Christians in the West tend to think that faith in Jesus Christ is supposed to solve all our problems and make everything in life sweet and easy. Actually, I wouldn’t mind if it worked out that way! However, most of the problems the Christ-followers in Thessalonica were experiencing were caused by their faith, not solved by their faith.
Paul’s example, Jesus’ example, and the example of our brothers and sisters who have gone before us makes it clear that the life of faith is not “Joy OR Suffering” but often “Joy AND Suffering!” Faith in Jesus will not necessarily keep us from problems nor remove our problems immediately when we pray. But Jesus will, without fail, be with us in our problems and make a way through our problems.
Father, I have such a long way to go on this. The years have shown my faith to be strong, but my own problems (usually minor!) and sufferings (I’m embarrassed to call them that!) sometimes show my joy to be fragile. Help me to be like the Thessalonians who had a deep inner joy that came from the Holy Spirit and not from the circumstances of a trouble-free life. Amen.