The Special of the Day… From the Orange Moon Cafe…
(Friends, this is a repeat from several years ago that illustrates the theme of this short series of messages regarding joy and sorrow often existing concurrently in born again believers. Thanks, Glen.)
"Joy In Sorrow"
Part 2 - "All Joy"
Frances and I met in church in the spring of 1976. We became friends before our courtship began, and often frequented a local restaurant after church to talk about the Lord, our lives, and any other subject that might come up.
One day, Frances mentioned a passage from the book of James. "The Lord is teaching me," she said, "to count it all joy when ye fall into diverse temptations" (James 1:2). I was familiar with the command, having already been disturbed by it several times in my still fledgling Christian life.
I immediately responded with the air of 19 year old male wisdom and authority (ha!). "Oh, it doesn't mean that!" I declared. I expected my pontification to end the discussion, in hopes we might move on to less challenging matters.
Frances, however, was not dazzled by my spiritual brilliance, insight, and cocksure demeanor. "What do you mean that it doesn't mean that?" She looked directly into my green eyes with her beautiful, but piercing brown eyes.
I would come to learn over the years that the brown eyes usually win. I averted my gaze to avoid their challenge, and repeated, "Well, it doesn't mean that."
Frances didn't divert her gaze. She rather looked at me with both puzzlement and consternation (a word of advice: in such matters, one does well to not raise questions with Frances about Scriptural authority and obvious meaning). "If it doesn't mean that," she said, "what does it mean?"
I didn't have the foggiest idea. I just knew it couldn't possibly mean we are to count as "all joy" every trial and tribulation of our lives. So, that's what I told her. Frances paused for a brief moment, gathered her thoughts, and then declared, "Well, Buster (she didn't actually say "Buster." But it felt like she did!), "Well, until you can tell me what it does mean, I think I'll just take it at face value!"
More than forty years later, she still takes James' command at face value. Along with all Scripture. I joined the parade of faith not too long after the aforementioned episode as I witnessed Frances exemplify and affirm the truth of counting it all joy. James meant what he wrote. Even more, our Heavenly Father meant what James wrote. He unequivocally calls us to consider every trouble of our lives in the joy of His working all things for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28). Note that He does not call us to "feel" our challenges joyfully, but to "count" them so (we will address the meaning of this word in Part 3 tomorrow). We must view troubles through the lens of faith that sees God's involvement in all things. Sometimes sorrow will wrack our hearts and tears will stream from our eyes as we look Heavenward to affirm joy in Christ - "as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing" (II Corinthians 6:10). Joy begins with conviction and faith as we choose to "rejoice in the Lord" regardless of condition, circumstance, or emotional sensibility (Philippians 4:4). Glad feeling will come later as God vindicates the confidence we choose to maintain when our world seems to be crashing in upon us and our hearts feel crushed. "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed and the mountains be carried into the sea" (Psalm 46:1-2).
Again, Frances continues to count it all joy. As for "Buster," well, I'm learning. I'm grateful for the example with whom I live my life, wherein God's presence and loving involvement fills all things. Yes, it does mean that. We can and must affirm the joy of Christ in all things and at all times. We do so because His joy resides within our spirits if we have believed, and because failure to count it all joy means we embrace the delusion that chooses to ignore Truth and reality. The Lord Jesus sacrificed too much to bring us into the Light for such darkness to govern our hearts. Moreover, too much is at stake in our lives to count our challenges, whatever their nature, as anything but "all joy." I am grateful for that day so long ago, and for the Lord and Frances's ongoing faithfulness in affirming His joy, and our calling to make the choice, the choice to rejoice, in all things.
"Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say, rejoice."
"Rejoice in the Lord, ye righteous, and give thanks at the remembrance of His holiness."
Weekly Memory Verse
"Search the Scriptures for in them ye think ye have eternal life, and they are they which testify of Me."