An oldie goldie song says, ‘The beat goes on, and the beat goes on.” I feel as though the lyrics describe the pandemic lockdown. I’m ready to listen to a new song, but this one hasn’t finished playing yet, and I can’t change it. What to do?
On the days when I feel like enough’s enough, I find encouragement in the apostle Paul’s letter to the believers in Thessalonica. Their situation was much worse than the one we currently face. These men and women had come to faith in Christ believing their lives would get better. Imagine their feelings of disillusionment when things headed the opposite direction and persecution began.
Paul encouraged them stand strong and commended them for their response: “So you received the message with joy from the Holy Spirit in spite of the severe suffering it brought you.” (1 Thessalonians 1:6 NLT)
It’s easy to glaze over a verse like that because it doesn’t pop off the page with a promise to us, or so it seems. But wait.
The Greek word used for “suffering” (thlipsis) is a strong word that implies intense afflictions. According to Bible teacher Rick Renner, it conveys the idea of a heavy-pressure situation. Imagine tying a victim with ropes, placing him on his back on the ground, and then placing a huge boulder on his chest. The boulder slowly crushes the life from him. This is the word picture that describes the emotional and mental suffering these believers were experiencing.
But in the midst of thlipsis, these believers knew joy. How is that possible? The Greek word for “joy” infers a supernatural gift of God’s grace. It has nothing to do with hilarity or giggles or raucous laughter. It has everything to do with experiencing a superhuman infilling of God’s power and presence and peace. They walked out this realization, and they knew joy as a result.
Joy shines brightest in the dark.
When we can’t see our way through a tough situation, joy is there for the asking. When weariness drains us dry, joy is ours if we want it. When burdens threaten to crush the life from us, joy is available as a supernatural gift of God’s grace.
If the believers in Thessalonica could experience joy in the midst of thlipsis, we can experience joy in the midst of ongoing lockdowns. God’s supernatural gift of grace still applies.
The beat goes on. And I choose joy. How about you? Will you choose joy with me?
“Father, thank You for the joy that is ours no matter what our circumstances look like. Thank You for the supernatural gift of Your grace. When we feel overwhelmed, remind us that joy is ours for the asking because of Your presence and overcoming power in our lives. In Jesus’ s name, amen.”
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