Sunday, January 1, 2012

Joy in Trials

When I identified scriptures, months ago, for today's Sunday school lesson on "joy in trials," I didn't know, of course, how the lesson would coincide with my circumstances, today. But my Heavenly Father knew, just as He knew I'd need the eight lessons I taught before today's (four, each, on fear and joy).

He was shoring me up for this time. He knew: if I committed to teaching a Sunday school class on emotions, I would get knee-deep up in His Word. I would turn into a huntress of and Strong's Exhaustive Concordance.

So he laid that class heavy on my heart, and He was specific: write your own lessons on emotions, using My Word. Teach about fear, joy, trust, hope: in that order.

I dreaded this morning's lesson and put off preparing just as long as I could. I won't lie to you: I knew I was in for it.

I've been weak, in the joy department, during this trial.

I've managed to stay out of the pit (my place of anger and paralyzing fear). I've prayed my hind end off. I've experienced more peace than I would've imagined, and I've even managed some praise. But I haven't celebrated. I haven't been joyful enough.

And joy matters. Joy in trials gets others' attention. Joy in trials gets God's participation.

We looked, today, at Acts 16:16-34 (among other scriptures). Paul and Silas were stripped, beaten (hard and long), thrown into the belly of a prison, and shackled, and they hadn't done a thing wrong; in fact, they'd been about the Lord's business.

I know myself well enough to figure: if that were me, I'd probably continue to pray...while curling my broken, sore body up on the cold floor of that prison and crying my eyeballs out.

But Paul and Silas didn't have themselves a pity party; they not only prayed but also sang praises to God. The other prisoners heard them. (Joy in trials gets others' attention!)

There was a great earthquake. The prison shook to its foundations. All the doors were opened. All the shackles were loosened. (Joy in trials gets God's participation!)

And I love this part: the jailer had been instructed to make sure Paul and Silas didn't escape. Thus the inner prison. Thus the shackles. After the earthquake, the jailer turned plumb suicidal thinking about Paul and Silas--plus all the other prisoners!--running loose and amuck. But Paul called out: "Do thyself no harm: for we are all here."

Think about it for a minute: not only did Paul and Silas stay, but the other prisoners stayed, too. No one ran away! Now, I know I'd be inclined to run away from someone who'd shackled me in an inner prison. (I tend to avoid the woman who said something hateful about me behind my back, in Food Lion!) And I'm guessing most of these prisoners didn't know the Lord. I reckon they were awestruck by all the praising and earthquaking. (Joy in trials gets others' attention! Joy in trials gets God's participation!)

The jailer fell down before Paul and Silas and asked: "What must I do to be saved?"

"Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved," they responded. And the jailer not only accepted Christ and was baptized, but he also washed Paul's and Silas's wounds and fed them dinner in his house.

Joy in trials gets others' attention! Joy in trials gets God's participation! So please pray specifically for my sense of joy. I've felt comforted, but I want to feel joyful. Like this:

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