By Carey Helmink
“We live in such a way that no one will stumble because of us, and no one will find fault with our ministry. In everything we do, we show that we are true ministers of God. We patiently endure troubles and hardships and calamities of every kind. We have been beaten, been put in prison, faced angry mobs, worked to exhaustion, endured sleepless nights, and gone without food. We prove ourselves by our purity, our understanding, our patience, our kindness, by the Holy Spirit within us, and by our sincere love. We faithfully preach the truth. God’s power is working in us. We use the weapons of righteousness in the right hand for attack and the left hand for defense. We serve God whether people honor us or despise us, whether they slander us or praise us. We are honest, but they call us impostors. We are ignored, even though we are well known. We live close to death, but we are still alive. We have been beaten, but we have not been killed. Our hearts ache, but we always have joy. We are poor, but we give spiritual riches to others. We own nothing, and yet we have everything.” 2 Corinthians 6:3-10
I find that little phrase in bold letters to be one of the great challenges of my life. The longer I live on this earth, the more suffering and sadness I see, the harder it is to have joy. Aren’t we called to weep with those who weep and mourn with those who mourn? The answer is yes. We never want to become so calloused to the struggles of the people around us that we stop feeling for them and entering their sorrow. Sometimes that is the emotion that surrounds our own lives as well.
When you read through the passage above and grasp all the things Paul endured, it is amazing he is also the author of Philippians – the book of joy. Some of his struggles were because of his faith, but he was also shipwrecked and endured circumstances that were completely out of his control. In fact, he had some affliction he begged God to take away from him and the Lord refused, stating His strength would be revealed through Paul’s weakness.
A couple of things help me keep my heart set on joy during an aching heart. First, I immerse myself in the scriptures and remind myself of who God is in the light, so when darkness comes, I will have that truth already lodged in my heart. Secondly, meeting together with my brothers and sisters in worship is another way to remind myself of who he is ALL the time, not just when things are going well.
Lord, give us the strength to find joy in our lives through you – even when our hearts ache.