Anyone, whether a Christian or not, can be joyful when times are good... Anyone can be happy when circumstances are "just as they should be"... but it takes a Christian with deep and firm trust in the Lord to suffer well. It takes a Christian whose eyes and heart are fixed on Christ to smile in the midst of suffering.
I don't like to suffer. In fact my flesh hates it and continually craves to escape it's claws. But my spirit, who I am in Christ, beckons me to rejoice in my suffering and to count it all joy when I fall into various trials. This goes against everything in our old man and in our culture. Our old man and culture want comfort and security more than anything. God calls us to find our comfort and security in Him and not in our circumstances. This calling is only possible when we have truly surrendered to His will for our lives and when we have completely committed to setting our eyes on things above, not on things on the earth.
Recently, 6 weeks ago, I gave birth to my fifth child. What a joy my sweet Chloe is to me! But my pregnancies and postpartum recovery are not so joyous. They include lots of suffering and trials. I am sick my entire pregnancy, and then after nine months of nausea, I give birth only to feel like I am heading into a pit of anxiety and depression I can't get out of. My anxiety after birth is through the roof and I am crying up to 10 times a day... I had a dear friend come over recently and say to me: "Are you sure it's God's plan for your life to keep having children?! It's so hard for you!" I looked at her and said: "If you can find anywhere in the bible where it says that suffering and hardship are bad I will reconsider." But you can't find it. Nope. Instead you find that God uses suffering and hardship big time for our good. I enjoy those "happy go lucky" seasons just like everyone else but I know God does a lot more sanctifying through those trials and desperate times.
I started asking myself, could Satan accuse me, like he did Job, of only praising God because things are going good? Could he say I only give thanks because I am not suffering?
"'Does Job fear God for nothing?” Satan replied. “Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land. But now stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face.'" Job 1:9-11
In other words, Satan said: "Job only loves you because you have made his life comfy. If you brought great trials into his life surely his faith would be shaken and he would curse you and no longer praise you." But Satan was wrong.
Would Satan be wrong about you? If he accused you as he did Job, would his accusation be unfounded? Do you give thanks in all circumstances or do you give thanks in your preferred circumstances?
"...give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." 1 Thess. 5:18
"Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." James 1:2-4
"...we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us." Rom. 5:3-5
God has a great purpose for us in calling us to rejoice in our suffering and in calling us to count our trials as joys and here is the purpose: the more we practice rejoicing in suffering and counting it all joy to fall into VARIOUS trials and the less we practice moaning, groaning, whining, complaining and worrying in the midst of suffering, the more we will grow in our faith and the more endurance, patience and hope we will have!
As we cling to Christ in the midst of tears our faith will grow and our hope increase!
Besides, Jesus Himself suffered GREATLY! Why should we be above suffering if God Himself came and suffered?
"He, for the joy [of obtaining the prize] that was set before Him, endured the cross, despising and ignoring the shame, and is now seated at the right hand of the throne of God." Heb. 12:2
"During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him." Heb. 5:7-9
Christ's life was filled with persecution, abandonment, homelessness and great physical suffering. Notice how it says He endured the cross for the joy set before Him! It doesn't say He enjoyed the cross because He liked to suffer. No. He endured it because of what the cross meant. The cross and His suffering, meant YOUR salvation! His suffering meant hope for all mankind!
You and I are called to endure, to count it all joy and to rejoice in suffering, not because of the suffering itself but because of what the suffering produces. God accomplishes great things in suffering that never come out of joyful/easy/comfortable times, seasons and circumstances.
If you want a truly happy life, one that is happy in all seasons of life, learn to suffer well. Whatever suffering you are experiencing today, or in this season of life, remember to rejoice, to count it all joy and to endure it because you trust in the God Who is going to bring mighty things out of it. Your suffering will bring endurance, character, hope, maturity and perseverance and that is worth rejoicing in!