Rog is starting a new series which looks at Joy and getting tools to triumph in tough times. This first talk looks at ‘joy in suffering’. We can’t always avoid tough times in life and so this series will equip us to find joy even amidst the most difficult of times.
Joy can come when storms strike in our lives (eg. family breakdown, the death of a loved one, hurt, suffering, disappointment, etc.) because as we realise our inadequacy, we pursue God more readily. Of course, we have the option of not turning to God in tough times and attempt to weather the storm alone. When this happens we tend to take a back step from church and ultimately from faith., People sometimes turn from God because deep down they blame him for their pain. What we need to be aware of is that tough times are never sent because God is some kind of a vindictive monster, but actually because he loves us – there is indeed a joy to be had in tough times. Timothy Keller recalls a fairy tale that reminds us that people’s experience of toughness can be good for us and are sent by a loving God.
There was a wicked witch who lived in a remote cottage in the deep forest. When travellers came through looking for lodging, she offered them a meal and a bed. It was the most wonderfully comfortable bed any of them had ever felt. But it was a bed full of dark magic, and if you were asleep in it when the sun came up, you would turn to stone. Then you become a figure in the witches’ statuary, trapped until the end of time. This witch forced a young girl to serve her, and though she had no powers to resist the witch, the girl had become more and more filled with pity for her victims. One day a young man came looking for a bed and board and was taken in. The servant girl could not bear to see him turned to stone. So she threw sticks and stones and thistles into the bed. It made the bed horribly uncomfortable. Every time he turned he felt a new painful object under him. Though he cast each one out, there was always a new one to dig into his flesh. He slept only fitfully and finally rose, feeling weary and worn, long before dawn. As he walked out the front door, the servant girl met him, and he berated her cruelly. “How could you give a traveller such a terrible bed full of sticks and stone?” he cried and went on his way. “Ah”, she said under her breath, “the misery you know now is nothing like the infinitely greater misery a comfortable sleep would have brought upon you! Those were my sticks and stone of love.”