Once on a run I thought about what it meant to have little. I’m so insulated in my suburban world, my belly full, my heart free from heartache (for the moment, thankfully). As I thought about that, I remembered a book Patrick and I read together.
It’s called: The Call to Joy and Pain: Embracing Suffering in Your Ministry by Ajith Fernando. After having gone through our own bouts with suffering in ministry, this book was a healing balm. Fernando outlines a theology of suffering and contends that joy and suffering are married.
Perhaps the mark of a growing Christian isn’t our gritted ability to endure, but our joy in the midst of our lack. (Click to tweet) I admit it today, shout it sadly from the treetops: I AM NOT SO GOOD AT JOY.
Which brings me to the title of this post. God is glorified when we learn to be thankful for what we have today. (Click to tweet) He calls us to be faithful in little. Have a little bit of food? Be faithful and make a pot of soup, but make it with joy. Have a little bit of conviviality with your ten year old (and some contention)? Be faithful to pursue the heart of your child, choosing joy when arguments come.
I’m not pollyanna-ing life here. I’ll be the first to admit life is hard. It is not what we lack that marks us though, it’s how we live in spite of the lack. (Click to tweet)
I’m transported back to 1987 when I attended Urbana ’87, a mission’s conference. Ironically, the main speaker that year was Ajith Fernando. He exegeted Jonah. But here’s what I remember even more: There was a man riding the bus to the venue. He was Indian, I believe. His face shown like none I’d ever seen. It was so contagious, I started asking him questions. Hardships spilled from his mouth. Famine. Persecution. Relational pain. Death. Disease.
And yet he smiled.
It wasn’t a self-satisfied “I’m living my own personal miracle” smile. It wasn’t pasted on; his teeth weren’t airbrushed. It was a genuine, over-the-top God smile.
I loved that man instantly. Not in a dating way, but much, much better–in a Jesusy way. I saw Jesus dance through the eyes of this man. Saw His joy. In fifteen minutes on a bus, I encountered the Living God.
I sometimes think about that man, how he’d been faithful in little, thankful with overflowing joy for what he had in the moment.
Dear, dear Jesus. You lived inside that Indian man on the bus. Would You live inside me like that? I want to be joyful in suffering. I want to be thankful in little. I want to so rest in Your love for me that I stop worrying and striving. Please strip away that which needs to be stripped. Make me a joyful soul, Lord, a thankful girl. Amen.
Are you seeking impossible joy? Check out Mary’s audio healing retreat “Discover the Secret to Impossible Joy” here.