Every morning the very first thing I do before getting out of bed is read a psalm to myself out loud. Then, in the evening, the very last thing I do is read that same psalm again. Yesterday morning, it was psalm 51. One brief verse, number eight, caught my attention and I’ve been thinking about it sense.
“Make me to hear joy and gladness,
Let the bones which you have broken
It reminded me of some of some thoughts that Jeremiah Burroughs had provoked in his work The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment. In his work, Burroughs endeavors to help teach the church Paul’s meaning in saying that he had “learned” the secret to contentment, in hopes that other believers would follow in Paul’s footsteps.
Burroughs explains that contentment (true Christian contentment that is) always submits to God’s disposal. This of course makes sense. We are to be obedient to God, and who are we to ever talk back to God and say, “why have you made me like this?” In our troubles and our afflictions we should always submit quietly to God, regardless of the difficulty. No big deal, I get that, it’s hard most of the time, but I understand it. But then, he built on top of that with something a lot more difficult for me to stomach.
Burroughs claims next that a truly content Christian must not only submit under whatever God would choose to afflict us with, but we should in fact appreciate it. Wait, hold up. I’ve got a problem with that. Historically, that isn’t something that I’ve probably ever pulled off. My afflictions and difficulties, in hindsight, usually produce a submissive joy, looking at all the good that God had done through my difficulty, but in the moment, no way. Burroughs claim was almost insulting. How am I supposed to sit in the midst of my difficulty, and say, “thank you Jesus that things are difficult”? Well it’s easy, I understand. Just believe that Jesus can see and perceive more than I can and that whatever I’m in is exponentially better than the alternative. Ah, good, case closed. I’ll do that from here on out and everything will be peaches and cream.
Ok, that was sarcastic. But the truth is, that’s the goal we ought to be working toward. James 1:2, “consider it pure joy, my brothers, when you face trials of many kinds.” When you face trials of many kinds. Not, after you face trials, or before you face trials, but when you face trials. But how come? “Because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.” (James 1:3). Historically, I know the trials and afflictions that I face are allowed, sometimes produced, by God. Always, they have turned out for the deepening of my faith and the increasing of my satisfaction and joy. God is doing something when I’m hurting and it’s going to be really awesome.
Jesus, I pray that you would increase my faith. Give me joy in the midst of affliction. Not aside from pain, but because of pain. Remind me that whatever you are working is for my good and your glory. Jesus, speak this peace over your Church across the globe; especially to your children who are hurting much worse than I have. Teach us faith, teach us perseverance. God, for the sake of your glory and our joy, sanctify your Church!