When I started planning to write this article about how God gives joy in hardship, I felt a strong desire to listen to the stories of others. By putting them to words, my hope is that we can all learn from others in the faith. I have always loved the phrase: we see further when we stand on the shoulders of giants. I hope that the same is true for you as you read these beautiful testimonies.
As I type this article, I am aware that I cannot speak into the depths of every situation – and that is not my intention. If you are reading this article and you are in a season of hardship, I have no doubt that your season of hardship is just that… hard. I cannot begin to imagine the wide range of struggles that exists, but I know our God does know exactly what you’re going through, and He cares deeply. He is always close to His children. So, take what stands out to you and talk to God about it… hopefully at the end of this article you will feel just a little more hope-filled, a little more peace-filled and a little more aware that our God is good, God gives joy in hard times and He is for us in every situation!
Choosing Obedience Despite the Suffering
When thinking about joy in suffering, two people I know and who I have witnessed being joyful in hard times sprang to mind. The first is a part of my church family, someone I respect deeply and someone who always makes me laugh in my interactions with him. His name is John Weston. In 2014, John was diagnosed with cancer. It was a huge surprise to him and his family. Yet, through the months of seeing them as a family journey on this difficult road, John remained visibly and genuinely happy. Not the “put on a smile to pretend I’m happy”, but the deep inward joy that bubbles out to others and leaves them feeling joyful. I was inspired by him, and it gave an account to me of God’s goodness during difficult times, because that kind of joy could only be from the Lord. I met up with John to talk about how he remained joyful in those hard seasons and, true to John’s character, there were many laughs and a few deep encouragements to remain faithful to the Lord in all seasons.
It is inspiring to sit with someone who loves the Lord so wholeheartedly. I spoke to John about the season of hardship in his own life and he shared honestly about the challenges he had faced when his mom went to be with Jesus and when he journeyed through cancer.
“We experience true joy when we experience Jesus taking His rightful place in our hearts and that joy is the joy that I experience in my life in every day.” – John
As we talk John shares honestly about how he journeyed through cancer and the loss of his mom. Amid the grief, there was joy and incredible peace. As John talks, you can tell that he was remarkably close to his mother. In the middle of the heartache of losing his mom, John explained to me that he always felt the Lordship of God over His life. It strikes me as we talk that there is a yielding to God above John’s own understanding, that despite the circumstances and deep pain, John rested in God’s Lordship in his life and there was delight in the Lord above the loss and above the pain.
John shares with me how he continued with an assignment he felt the Lord had given to him minutes after hearing his mom had passed away. In his heart, John responded and started preparations for this assignment. Despite being told no at first, John continued to quietly prepare in obedience to God and then an opportunity suddenly opened. John, with his quiet preparation and persistence, could deliver what the Lord had told him to do. Amid loss there was obedience to God and then joy as God allowed a way for John to continue his assignment and be a blessing to the world around him. I observe as we talk that grief, obedience, peace, and joy are all present at the same time. We both felt God’s closeness during our conversation. This reminds me of how relational our God is and how close He is in difficult times. Psalm 34:18 reminds us “The Lord is close to those whose hearts have been broken. He saves those whose spirits have been crushed”
When talking about his battle with cancer, John shares that during physical pain and uncertainty, he was at peace knowing that he had committed his life to God and that God had a greater plan than the pain he was feeling. John shares with me that he told the Lord: “Lord whatever is in store for me, I am at peace with whatever Your plan is for my life”.
I asked John what his conversation with God was like in the middle of his fight against cancer. John responded by saying that he has always said “Thank you God that you are in control. Show me what you want me to learn in this.”
When I thanked John for our time together, he said “It was the Spirit of God in my heart, He gave me the assurance and the peace and then the scripture. I had been through so much trouble, but I was untouched, my spirit was strong. He was in control; He was there for me when I called out to Him. He heard my call. He knows what tomorrow holds and TODAY God has brought me here for a time such as this”.
I pray that as you read this that the Spirit of God would give you assurance and peace.
I’ll leave John’s testimony with one of his favourite scriptures and one I can see active in his life: Proverbs “The fear of the Lord leads to life; then one rests content, untouched by trouble.” – Proverbs 19:23
God Uses it ALL – The Good and the Hard Times!
Another dear friend who I have seen joyfully and tenaciously walk through difficult times, is my friend Teresa. Teresa has pioneered many assignments from God, often getting involved in seemingly unusual assignments only for God to work so powerfully through those unlikely circumstances that it can only be God who performed the miracle. Being a leader and an entrepreneur resulted in Teresa venturing out into new areas, something that comes with risks and hardships. I chatted to Teresa to see how she remained joyful amid those uncertain seasons.
In response to the question, what does joy look like to her, she responded by saying: “Joy is a fruit of the Holy Spirit. It is a gift from the Holy Spirit”. I value the reminder that because of God’s spirit living within us, we have full joy in Him. It is His presence in our lives that results in our joy, and our circumstances never alters His position towards us – we always have access to joy through Christ.
Teresa shares that James 1:2-4 was an anchor for her soul during hardship: “Count it all joy, my brothers when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”
As I read that scripture again, I can feel James’ encouragement to us… to me it feels like he is cheering us on, speaking from a place of experience and saying: “remain joyful in hard times guys, let the hard times have its full effect because it’s going to produce something beautiful”. Such confidence comes from a knowing, an actual experience of God in hard times, and James is encouraging us to the same experience with God. I don’t know about you but that makes me want to lean into God even more.
Teresa says that as a Christian, she knows that if she is not feeling joyful then she needs to stop and ask herself what is stealing her joy. She knows that it is the enemy who comes to steal, kill and destroy and he has NO right to steal from her – she is a child of God. We all are.
Next, we spoke about the tools that she found helpful to undergird her faith in those times. Teresa explains that throughout her life, certain things have remained unquestionable and that is her daily, intentional times of devotion with the Lord. Teresa explains that being in God’s presence, sitting with Him, reading His Word, has been everything to her. She intentionally seeks a fresh word from God each day. As she speaks, I can see the strength in her conviction and in her words, I recognize that that strength comes from meeting with the One who is faithful to respond when we seek Him. Teresa shares how her quiet times with God have been an anchor for her soul during hard and uncertain seasons. She shares about the constant prayers during the day when faced with a potential difficult meeting, worshipping during hard seasons, and focusing on the needs of others.
She reminds me of the acronym “JOY” and how it can stand for Jesus, Others and You. She encourages me by saying that when we serve the needs of others, joy comes naturally to us. She shares that disappointments in life have not stopped her life and her life was not on hold, that through disappointments, she kept going and kept doing what God had invited her to do. At the end she laughs and triumphantly declares “ And GOD used it ALL ! He used the hard times for good just like He said He would in Romans 8:28” I could see the sheer JOY in her words, she tasted God’s goodness in hard times, and HE used it all! Praise Him.
Lastly, I asked Teresa what her conversations with God was like during hard times. With a joyful laugh, she exclaimed: “like that of a child speaking to her Father. I used to say – you promised to be with me Father and I believe You will see me through this”.
Take-aways from these testaments of joy in hardships.
As I finish this article, a couple of points stand out to me and if anything, let these be what remains with you as you continue your day:
- Both John and Teresa have endured hard circumstances and at the end, their triumphant words tell a story of God’s faithfulness to them and their situation, even when things did not turn out as anticipated.
- I notice that they remained obedient to God’s instructions. Their obedience to God did not stop. Their actions, despite life’s disappointments, continued. And like my friend Teresa declared: “God used it all!”
- God’s Word were anchors to both. Proverbs 4:21-22 (TPT) beautifully speaks to this point and is a reminder to us: “Fill your thoughts with my words until they penetrate deep into your spirit. Then as you unwrap my words, they will impart true life and radiant health into the very core of your being.”
- Our beautiful God is Sovereign, He reigns and there is a beautiful peace available as you pray and rest in His Sovereignty over our lives.
- Joy is not just a feeling. It sustains you through the hard times, it comes despite and despite your suffering, and it is your strength as you walk in obedience with God!
If any parts of this article have stirred something in your heart, I would like to encourage you to respond by talking to God – He is good and He is close to you. If you need someone to pray with you, please contact the CBN prayerline and someone will gladly pray with you.