“…let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God (Hebrews 12: 1a-2).”
I am aware of so many struggling this time of year with disease, broken relationships, painful circumstances beyond their control, and grief over loved ones who have died. We talk, sing, watch movies, and hear Bible stories that point to the joy of Christmas, but feeling it is a tall mountain for many to climb.
So what do we learn from the writer of Hebrews about joy in the face of difficult circumstances and suffering? We learn that he encouraged the Christians facing terrible persecution to persevere in their faith by finding joy in the good life in Christ that is to come. Certainly we cannot and should not deny the severity and suffering of our circumstances. Denial does not help us face our challenges and does not lead us to seek God’s help to deal with our difficulties. At worst, it trains us to deceive ourselves and allows our problems to grow larger. But neither should we respond as though we have no better life to look forward to in Christ.
Our joy is not always inspired by present circumstances, but we Christians can always find joy in the life to come in which “he will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away (Rev. 21: 4)” and in which new life flows from God’s throne and “the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations (Rev. 22: 2).”
Jesus endured the suffering and shame of the cross so that we might have abundant and good life in him. That was the joy that enabled him to endure the cross. May the joy of new life that will eventually come fully to us through Jesus Christ enable us to persevere through trials and be the source of our joy in good times and in bad.
I pray this truly may be the “hap, happiest season of all” for each of us, but if it doesn’t feel that way, persevere for the joy set before just as Jesus did.
May faith, hope, and love be yours,