Points to Ponder: Joy on the Dark Side

Points to Ponder
Joy on the Dark Side
by Pastor Dennis Whitmore

The apostle Paul writes from a cold, dark jail cell, "Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say rejoice!"
How can a man who has lost his worldly goods, his prominent position as a religious leader, and especially his freedom, say "Rejoice!"? How can a man who bears the marks and aches of repeated beatings, stonings, and exposure to the elements say "Rejoice in the Lord--always!"?
Perhaps you or a loved one has a disability, is fighting cancer, or is slowly dying with something like ALS or Alzheimer's. And though you, or they, are devoted to Christ, this suffering prompts the question, "Why, God?"
Could it be that cancer, disabilities and chronic illnesses are prisons of sorts? Despite his prison, he was joyful! Despite his pain, he was joyful! His experience illustrated that freedom and joy are not defined by outward circumstances. When we witness someone living in freedom and joy despite some very obvious limitations and suffering, what do we see but Christ in them. The world is full of suffering and the "why?" questions will mostly go unanswered 'til we meet the One who has those answers. So what can we do? We can make a choice. We do not always choose our situations or circumstances, but we can choose how we will respond to them.
Joni Eariickson Tada, a quadriplegic since 1967 from a diving accident, heads a ministry called "Joni and Friends" to encourage the disabled. She is one of the most joyful persons I have ever heard. She's on the radio (WCRH--90.5) everyday. Joni addresses the plight of the suffering and the disabled who find themselves asking the question, "Why God?"
She has been in a wheelchair for over 30 years, since she was just 17 years old. Think of that as she shares these thoughts. She says that perhaps God is saying to those who are in theses circumstances, this: "If I can teach you to find freedom in this prison, which people can see, they will see your example and come to find their way out of the prison they're in, which people can not see."
One of the women in my churches suffered with a debilitating disease that kept her bed-ridden during the last years of her life. She lay in bed, day and night, hardly able to do anything with her crippled body while at the same time her keen mind was always thinking. What did she want to pray for? A good attitude. She wanted to be a good influence on her roommates and the nursing staff. Sure enough, at her funeral, a nurse stood up and gave testimony of this woman's powerful witness. Through her, this nurse said she could see God.
The Lord said to the apostle Paul in his infirmity, "My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness." (II Corinthians 12:9)
And then Paul responded to that answer to his prayer by choosing to accept his situation and to be joyful. He said he would "boast in (his) infirmity, that the power of God may rest upon me... for when I am weak, then I am strong." (v. 9, 10)
It is a tough concept to wrap ourselves around. But, it is a choice that we can each make when life's darker moments strike us. And in Christ, we can make that choice, and know the joy which no external circumstance gives or takes away.

This column can be found on the web at: www.fumcl.org and is downloaded for your reading pleasure. Pastor Whitmore is not affiliated with Picket News, nor does he submit any material directly to our publication. We regularly reprint interesting articles found at his public domain Web site and encourage all readers to visit this site to enjoy similar material.