Joy Comes with the MorningAugust 12, 2022 Suffering
Perspective is so hard to come by when you’re walking through a trial. Sickness, sin, and all kinds of misery can seem eternal, and heaven can become microscopic in our heart and imagination. In my last sermon from James 1, I was very moved by our confidence that “various trials” should be counted as “all joy” because of what they are producing in us: endurance.
I wanted to go a little deeper into the theology of suffering and trials producing joy in us.
The promise of a whole new wardrobe (Psalm 30)
In Psalm 30, David is crying out to God to remember his promises as the king feels he’s drawing near to death (described as “the pit”). But his confidence is rooted in the Lord’s character towards his children: anger will always be more brief against us than his favor. David thinks about the times at night when he had been crying to the Lord. “Weeping may stay for the night” David reminds himself, “but joy comes with the morning.”
David remembers the days of joy; when it was like receiving a whole new wardrobe. “You turned my wailing into dancing, you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy.”
First sadness sown…then a harvest of joy (Psalm 126)
As God’s exiled people were finally coming home, they couldn’t believe that their tears and homesickness had finally come to a close; they were coming into their joy. I think this will be the experience of Christians when we step into a new heaven and new earth. The Lord calls us to walk as exiles waiting for a promised hope in the future. Jesus is our captain, and has already become our first fruits of resurrection.
But for us, this is the time of waiting and, in the language of Psalm 126, sowing. Like a farmer who might have gone through long seasons of hunger, we walk out into the fields of whichever kind of trial and sadness God has called us to in this life. A tiny seed represented future joy to the farmer. “He who goes out weeping, bearing his seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, bringing his sheaves with him.” The trumpet will one day sound and we will be gathered to Christ, and our temporary sufferings in this life will be displaced by the eternal weight of glory.
Weighing our sorrows now in the balance of eternity (Romans 8 & 2 Corinthians 4)
For Paul, both in Romans 8 and 2 Corinthians 4, he rejoices now because it’s just a matter of time until we all will enjoy resurrection life. In the face of great suffering as an apostle, his confidence is that the Father who raised Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and bring all believers into his presence (2 Cor. 4:14; Rom 8:23). But Paul urgently wants us not to lose perspective: “I consider that the sufferings of this present life are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed.”
When temporary sufferings seem to eclipse our hope, Paul urges us to not lose sight of all the glory of being in the presence of God, with a whole new creation rejoicing forever.
“For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” This is part of our joy now: that in the scale of eternity, what we feel is lasting so long now – so many tears, so many sorrows – will not feel long then. All our suffering in the hope of resurrection with Jesus will be worth it.
What Pastor Adrian is reading . . .
Songs of Suffering: 25 Hymns and Devotions for Weary Souls
by Joni Eareckson Tada
I’ve very much appreciated these beautiful reflections from Joni Eareckson Tada. Each classic hymn is accompanied with large, vibrant photos; and the photography itself is worth the price of the book. I also appreciate that, despite Joni’s lifelong suffering as a quadriplegic, most of the book isn’t about her suffering. She interviewed many friends who have become a fellowship of suffering Christians for her, as well as digging back into the stories behind the hymns she reflects on.