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How to Find Joy When Life Is Hard

June 26, 2020

In any walk of life, there will be times of great blessing and times of great difficulty. There will be times when you feel full of joy and there may be times when you may feel quite desperate. But whatever your circumstances today, God says to you:

“Rejoice in hope” (Rom. 12:12).

Does rejoicing seem impossible, in light of your present situation?

Remember that Paul wrote the words of Romans 12:12 to Christians who, within a few years, would endure a persecution in which some of them would be thrown to lions and others would be burned alive as torches in Nero’s garden.

So the hope Paul speaks of is not an optimistic feeling that things will get better. The apostle was not naïve, and he did not hold to an evolutionary view of human nature. “Evil people… will go from bad to worse,” he said (2 Tim. 3:13).

The hope we are to rejoice in is the glorious hope that is ours in Christ. This hope is not located in this world, but in a new world into which Jesus Christ will bring us when He comes again.

Paul says that we are “waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for Himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works” (Titus 2:13-14).

When you can’t find joy in what is around you, find joy in what lies ahead of you.

Of course, the question is: How are you to do this?

The 3 R’s of Rejoicing in Hope

1. Resist the indulgence of false hopes.

Hoping for something that doesn’t ever happen leaves you feeling sick (Prov. 13:12). So, don’t put yourself in that position. Don’t set yourself up to be disappointed.

Think, for example, about the last hundred years of world history. The nineteenth century ended with extraordinary optimism – mankind was coming into “a golden age.” Then, fourteen years into the 20th century, we had the First World War. People said it will be “the war to end all wars.” If we can just get past this problem, we will come into a new and marvelous world. But it was only a matter of 20 more years before the Second World War and after that we endured the Cold War for another 50 years.

The 20th century seemed to end in hope with the tearing down of the Berlin wall. People began to speak about “a new world order.” But just a few years later, we became immersed in a whole new kind of war, “the war on terror.”

It is in the nature of the human spirit to think that we can redeem the world, but a brief look at world history shows us that we never have and we never will. Some things can get better, but all visions of Utopia are doomed to failure in this fallen world, whether they be Marxist, capitalist, or Islamic State. Stop indulging false hopes!

2. Recognize short-term uncertainty.

People with plans often say with confidence, “Here is what I want to do: I am going to live in this or that city. I will go to this college and pursue that career. We are going to marry, and we are going to have children. We are going to plant a church. We are going to change the world!”

Listen to what God says in the letter of James: “Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit’—yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring” (Jas. 4:13-14).

It is good to have plans, but remember, when you plan for the future, you don’t even know if you will be here tomorrow! “What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes” (Jas. 4:15). Everything we hope to do in life depends on God’s grace and God’s strength; therefore, the wise person says, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that” (Rom. 4:15).

The short life we have in this world is very uncertain. God calls us to travel a winding path. None of us can see what is around the next corner – it may be a great trial, or it may be a great joy. We walk by faith, not by sight.

None of us knows for sure what will happen tomorrow, next week, next month, or next year. But here’s the thing: I don’t know what will happen tomorrow, but I do know the final outcome of my life.

3. Relish the promise of long-term security.

In a world full of uncertainty, where can we find security that lasts? In “our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ (Titus 2:13).

In the presence of Jesus, sin will be no more. It won’t be in you and it won’t be around you. Never again will you grieve your Savior. You will be a joy to Him and He will be a joy to you forever.

Never again will you be tired, weary, or discouraged. You will serve the Lord as you always wished you could. You will explore the joys of the new earth, freed at last from the curse – no floods or raging fires, no storms, earthquakes or mudslides. You will enjoy the blessings of a new world where every person truly loves his sister and brother – no violence, no hatred, no injustice, no fear.

You will enjoy eternal life in a resurrection body (modeled after the resurrection body of Jesus), in which the dark cloud of depression can never cast its shadow over you, the strong pull of temptation will never rise from within you, and the sharp anguish of pain will never torment you. You will be at home and at peace.

Rejoice! Jesus has overcome the world.

We don’t always feel at home or at peace in this world. Life in a fallen world is hard, and sometimes we groan inwardly, as we wait for the redemption of our bodies. But it is in this hope of redemption that we are saved (Rom. 8:23-24). We rejoice in the hope of heaven, where all tears will be wiped from our eyes.

Then we will see the King in His beauty. Our eyes shall behold Him. In our flesh we will see God, and we will have fullness of joy forever. So, whatever you are facing today, rejoice in hope.

This article is an adaptation of Pastor Colin’s sermon, “Overcoming Evil with Steadiness,” from his series, Overcoming Evil.

Photo: Unsplash

The Author
Colin Smith

Colin Smith is the Senior Pastor of The Orchard Evangelical Free Church in the northwest suburbs of Chicago. He has authored a number of books, including Heaven, How I Got Here and Heaven, So Near - So Far. Colin is the President and Teacher for Unlocking the Bible. Follow him on Twitter.

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