This is the last part in my series Paul vs Job. Just to recap, in this series, I’ve shared about the reason I began looking into this topic of Paul vs Job–-about how I could never find a devotional that went beyond the fact that we should be joyous and have faith and that we’d be healed in Heaven. I also shared about the differences between Job and Paul. I shared the lessons we can learn from Job and the lessons we can learn from Paul. I talked about how there are differences between struggling through short term trials and ones that are long term. Next I talked about what the Bible says about suffering and what the Bible says about joy in suffering. Then, I talked about the needs of the suffering and things I feel it’s important to keep in mind.
I’ve known for years that the Bible, and Paul specifically, tells us to have joy even in the midst of trials, but whenever I’d look for how to do that, all devotionals and articles came up short. They always told me what to do, but never HOW I could do that. There were times when I was in so much physical pain or emotional turmoil that I couldn’t even envision how that could be accomplished. And there were times when I have been easily able to move to joy from fear and pain because of all I’d seen in my life and all God had done for me. Yet, I still didn’t understand how Paul was able to have the joy he apparently had even in the midst of pain, enormous struggle, and persecution.
Frankly, I’d searched so long and so hard, I never thought I’d understand. I spoke to pastors and faith-filled friends who all told me to write about this, but I never felt qualified to do so…until recently. A friend told me to share what I HAD discovered even if it didn’t lead to how Paul was able to have such joy. So I embarked on this series. While, I prayed it would be a blessing to those in pain, struggling with trials of various kinds, I fully expected to come to this point in the series and tell you I had no idea how Paul was able to do this.
Then a miracle happened. I was reading over some articles and devotionals preparing for this blog post when it hit me that there wasn’t a single thing Paul did that helped him to feel joy. It wasn’t what he did; it was who he was. I believe there are nine things Paul was, or tried hard to be, that allowed him to live with joy:
1) An expectation and an acceptance that life wasn’t going to be easy.
Back in the olden days, I think there was an expectation and an acceptance that life was not a peaceful progression of years. With the advancement of medical science and technology, we have now come to expect that these things will make our lives easier. But more than this, we’ve come to the point where we do not accept life’s little struggles–let alone the big ones. As a result, it’s harder for people to deal with those struggles when they arise. The Bible tells us we will face trials of various kinds. Paul knew this. We should too.
2) A determination, a commitment, and a resilience.
Paul felt a strong calling on his life from the Lord to do certain things. That gives a person a determination and a commitment to that end. Determination and commitment leads to a resilience. We need to adopt those characteristics in our own lives to get us through the rough patches. Even if you look at this in a secular situation, have you ever heard of someone who accomplished great things in their lives, had great success, without having to struggle? No, you didn’t.
3) A constant reminder of how much Christ endured for us.
Paul was able to endure, I feel, because he was always aware of how much more Christ had endured for us. Whatever we have gone through, though devastating, was nothing compared to all Christ had lived through for our sake. I know that He was more than man and we are merely mortal, but having this in mind can help us to move past many things.
4) An understanding that while he may be in chains, his ministry was not.
Paul understood that while he had physical limitations of health or imprisonment, his ministry wasn’t bound. He was able to lead others to Christ through others, through his letters to the churches, etc. My ministry is not reliant upon my physical prowess (thankfully!) or my physical location (thanks to the internet). While my body may be limited, my ministry is not if I only think a bit outside the box. What about yours?
5) A heart to find the blessings due to his pain.
Paul’s heart was for others and he saw the blessings in those he discipled. He saw the blessings that God helped him to accomplish. He saw the beauty in God’s creations. We can do the same. If we look for the blessings in spite of (and sometimes BECAUSE of) our pain, we will have an easier time moving forward past the hardships.
6) A satisfaction with who he was if not how he was.
I think Paul was never satisfied with where he was or what he’d been able to do, but he was satisfied with who he was in Christ. We may not be satisfied with where we are (in struggle/chronic illness), but we may be satisfied with who we are in Christ because we are His and we are doing our best to fulfill our missions here on earth. That right there goes a long way to keeping us on track and fulfilled which makes trials less likely to derail our spirit.
7) A thankful heart for what he had been able to accomplish.
Paul had a thankful heart for all God did for him, a sinner, and for what he was able to accomplish in Christ. He was humble enough to know it was God’s victories and that, I think, made him thankful to be part of something bigger and more important than himself. Thankfulness makes us more positive about our future. Thankfulness can help us see outside ourselves and current difficulties toward something larger and more important for us to accomplish. Even if you are bedridden, there are ways the Lord can use you! What do you think they are? How can you be thankful to God for things in your life?
8) A flexibility to bypass roadblocks.
Part of number four up there requires flexibility. When life put up roadblocks for Paul, he found ways around them in order to further his ministry. Life has thrown roadblocks in your way too. How can you get around them? I know someone who is in a lot of pain and takes to her bed often for days, but she has a ministry online that gives her purpose. Instead of thinking she can’t be of any use, she found a way around her roadblocks to fulfill her ministry. How can you?
9) A heart to seek God for strength and direction.
Paul had a heart to seek after God. He found strength in Him and he asked for direction. We can too. We can ask God to reveal our purpose, to give us strength, to direct our steps, to fulfill our calling, to get through our struggles, and to find our joy! Will you?
I wish I could say I could wave a magic wand or you could take a pill and just suddenly experience joy amidst the difficult and sometimes horrific trials. There is no easy way to find joy. Maybe that’s the point. Maybe we need to struggle in order to create something beautiful in this life. Maybe it’s the struggle that defines us and pushes us mere humans to do something incredible with God’s help. Maybe the only real peace we will find is on the other side, in heaven…
I may not have all the answers to how Paul was able to find the joy in the midst of such trial. I may know nothing about what it will mean for you, but I do pray this post has been a starting point, food for thought, that will lead you to become the person you need to be in order to find your joy.