What does it mean to Rejoice in Suffering?


What does it mean to rejoice in suffering?

Currently, I am reading Walking with God through Pain and Suffering by Tim Keller. This passage below on what it really means to rejoice in suffering, while a little long, is too good not to share.

Are you a Christian who is suffering? Stop pretending that suffering is “ok” and that rejoicing in suffering means you have to be cheerful day in and day out when horrible things are happening. Stop pretending that stoicism, not feeling anything, and pulling yourself up by your bootstraps is the answer. This passage below shows how mourning and joy intermingle when we look to God as we are walking through suffering.

“To “rejoice” in God means to dwell on and remind ourselves of who God is, who we are, and what he has done for us. Sometimes our emotions respond and follow when we do this, and sometimes they do not. But therefore we must not define rejoicing as something that precludes feelings of grief, or doubt, weakness, and pain. Rejoicing in suffering happens within sorrow.

Here is how it works. The grief and sorrow drive you more into God. It is just as when it gets colder outside, the temperature kicks the furnace higher through the thermostat. Similarly, the sorrow and the grief drive you into God and show you the resources you never had. Yes, feel the grief. There is a tendency for us to say, “I am afraid of the grief, I am afraid of the sorrow. I don’t want to feel that way. I want to rejoice in the Lord.” But look at Jesus. He was perfect, right? And yet he goes around crying all the time. He is always weeping, a man of sorrow. Do you know why? Because he is perfect. Because when you are not all absorbed in yourself you can feel the sadness of the world (bold my own). And therefore, what you actually have is that the joy of the Lord happens inside the sorrow. It doesn’t come after the sorrow. It doesn’t come after the uncontrollable weeping. The weeping drives you into the joy, it enhances the joy, and then the joy enables you to actually feel your grief without its sinking you. In other words, you are finally emotionally healthy.”

4 responses

  1. He is amazing. I am in my current chronic pain trying to dive into His word. To not doubt Him while I am suffering. I have to hold tight to the thought that He is everything.
    But when I left my suffering show at work (I am able to function on some level) I am criticized for being grumpy or antisocial. I am exhausted explaining repeatedly what is wrong, but I’m exhausted pretending to be happy.

    • Wow, what a tough place to be! But so encouraging that in the midst of your pain you are seeking out Christ and his Word. You couldn’t be in a better place than seeking him out. That doesn’t diminish what you are experiencing at work though. I am sorry you are so exhausted – I am so with you on that one! Saying a prayer for you right now.

  2. Wow, this is amazing. I have so many Christian friends who won’t even talk about “difficult” things in their lives at all. They deflect. They refuse to feel things because I think that they think this is how joy works. Then, sometimes they will fall into a deep state of sorrow and feel God isn’t there. But He always was. Thank you very much for writing this. Another thoughtful post!

    • I highly recommend the book I mention in the post!!! So good and helpful in a practical way when you are in the midst of suffering. I agree this concept is so helpful… It has helped me so much to try and understand what joy is and what it isn’t.

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