Maybe you’ve had a bad day, bad week … or a bad year. While it might seem impossible to maintain a buoyant attitude that finds joy in all circumstances, the Bible commands us to rejoice and then offers a much-needed promise of grace to help us accomplish what lies before us. In this episode, Leslie shares about the power and importance of the grace of God to do what we never could in our own strength. Drawing from the testimonies of joyful, grace-filled Christians, your faith will be bolstered in the power of Christ in us the hope of glory!
Leslie Ludy: Hey, everyone! It’s Leslie Ludy, host of the Set Apart Girl Podcast: Biblical Encouragement for Women of All Ages. Today we’re going to talk about how to have joy in the midst of trials. This is something that God has really been pressing deeper in my life over the past year as Eric and I have walked through some challenging situations, challenging financial struggles in our ministry, and different things that have been hard to walk through.
My default reaction is to say, “Hey, I just can’t handle this. It’s too much for me. I have an excuse or a reason to be down, sorrowful, and depressed.” I began to lay this area of my life before God afresh. This is something God’s worked in my heart in different seasons in my life. I’ve done other podcasts about finding true happiness and what God has done in my life, but this past year it was a fresh reminder. I want to share some of those things that I’ve been recently meditating on with you.
Christians Who Possessed Heroic Joy
Leslie Ludy: One of the most powerful things that has helped me during times when I’m struggling to have a joyful perspective is to read or listen on audio book to stories of Christians throughout history who triumphed through extreme trials and difficulties. I read about women who were in concentration camps for their faith in Christ, and it’s amazing to me that they suffered as much as they did and remained as joyful as they did.
Some of my favorites are Darlene Deibler. She was a young, married missionary in World War II. She and her husband were overseas and they were captured by the Japanese during the war. They were both put in individual work camps. She went through incredible suffering. As I hear her story, I’m amazed that a young, 20-something year old girl who grew up in America with a comfortable lifestyle, fresh out of Bible school, newly married could walk through what she did and remain as triumphant and joyful. She was an example to everyone in that camp. [To] all of the suffering and dying people around her and even to the Japanese soldiers who were extremely cruel and harsh, she was an example of someone who never lost her joy no matter how hard things got. There was a moment when she found out that her husband had actually died in his work camp, and it was very devastating to her because she had never even gotten a chance to say good bye to him. She was very sick, she was weak, she was suffering, people all around her were dying, and yet she chose to surrender it back to God and say, “Lord, I trust You. I give this back to You. I’m still going to rejoice in You. I’m still going to follow You.”
And that example had an incredible impact on the Japanese commander of that camp. Even though he had been a horribly cruel man and totally given over to violence and [a] domineering, harsh personality, he was so impacted by her life that he ended up eventually becoming a Christian. It was really, really amazing! Her choice to say, “Lord, I’m going to rejoice.” The grace of God that she opened herself up to in [saying], “Lord, You’ll give me the strength to be joyful even in the midst of this suffering.”
Then, of course, there’s Corrie and Betsy ten Boom – their story of The Hiding Place. When they went through that German concentration camp their circumstances were truly horrific and enough to make me shudder even if I read a little bit of what they went through. And yet, they said that there was true joy in that place, and every single night there was a little taste of Heaven on earth because they smuggled a Bible in. They had nightly Bible studies, they worshipped, they read the Psalms, they praised God, they walked intimately with Christ throughout that whole experience. Even when Betsy died in the concentration camp, Corrie was able to see her as she was dead laying there, but there was such peace and joy on her face. It was as if she truly entered into the presence of God and had the fullness of joy, and it was even reflected on her face after she had died.
Then there’s Esther Ahn Kim. Her story is in a book called If I Perish. She was this petite, little Korean girl. She had grown up in a very privileged home, but she refused to bow at the Japanese shrine during the time when the Japanese were taking over Korea. Because of that, for many years of her life, she was in a very, very difficult circumstance of being in prison, starving to death, being tortured for her faith, and yet, there were many times in her story where she is crying tears of joy because God counted her worthy to suffer for His sake.
Then, of course, there are the early church martyrs. There are so many amazing stories of church martyrs who were joyfully willing to give up their lives for Jesus Christ. Some even called the wild beasts their friends – the wild beats that were about to kill them in the arena with spectators watching. They said, “These wild beasts are our friends because they’re going to usher us into the presence of our Beloved King.”
There’s Peter and John the apostles. After being beaten, after being threatened – I’m sure they were hurting, they were bruised, they were bloodied – and yet it says that they left that experience rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for the sake of Christ (see Acts 5:41).
There are modern day stories of this happening all over the world of Christians in persecuted countries who are joyful amidst their suffering. I remember hearing about Koreans in North Korea and American Christians wanting to know how they could pray for the Koreans in North Korea. The Koreans said, “We actually pray for you as Americans, that you would find what we have found. You have so much, and yet you’re not very happy. We are on the run for our lives, we do everything in secret and hiding, but we have such grace of God. The presence of God is with us, and we have found such joy even in the midst of this hardship.”
That’s very convicting! And as I read all of these stories throughout history, as I study the early Christian martyrs, as I look at the lives of the apostles, as I hear stories of modern Christians that are suffering for Christ and how joyful they are, I realize – wow! What excuse do I have to complain about my life, to wallow in self-pity, to be down in the dumps just because things are not going exactly as I want them to in light of these amazing examples?
The Common Thread: God’s Grace
Leslie Ludy: One of the things that I would say is so important, one of the most important lessons that we can learn from these heroes of the faith is that it’s all about God’s grace. It’s about receiving God’s grace. The only way that we could possibly rejoice in the midst of trials is by the supernatural, enabling grace of God rather than just tapping into our own strength.
If you are going through something difficult, and you say, “Okay, I’m just going to somehow muster up joy in this situation.” That will not work for you. But if you say, “Lord, I can’t rejoice in my own strength, but I open myself up to receive Your grace to do what is impossible in my own strength.”
When Paul wrote the words, “Rejoice always. I will say it again, rejoice!” (Phil. 4:4 NIV). He actually wrote that from a prison cell! That is such an incredible picture of someone who says, “Yes, my outward circumstances are difficult, but the grace of God is enough to cause me to rejoice – even in this circumstance.”
I think I’ve told the story before of Jackie Pullinger. She was a missionary to (she is still alive), but had an incredible ministry for many years in the Walled City of Hong Kong, a very dark and destitute place. For many years, she even shared her own home and her room with people that were very destitute – prostitutes who were coming off of drug addiction, orphans who had no place to sleep. People asked her, “How do you handle that? You don’t even have your own room! You don’t even have any privacy!” And her statement was, “You may have your own room, but I know God’s grace.”
God’s grace can enable you to walk through situations you never thought you could walk through before. I encourage you to take any difficult situation in your life, receive God’s grace, apply God’s grace, and watch how things change. Watch how that enables you to be joyful!
One example from my own life was from quite a number of years ago when I had four children ages four and younger. Three of them were in diapers at once. I had a four year old, a two year old, a seven month old, and a newborn. Now this was a time in my life where I felt like I was in total chaos, I was under constant stress, I was not really getting any sleep, and I thought I was going to have a nervous breakdown!
I remember going to God and saying, “Lord, I can’t do this. This is too stressful. This is too hard.” And He began to speak to my heart, “Receive My grace.” And as I did that, as I said, “Okay, Lord, I can’t but You can!” I began to love that time in my life. It went from stressful to beautiful. It didn’t mean that the hardships went away or that I started getting more sleep, that there were no diaper blow-outs, tantrums, or anything like that. The circumstances were the same, but I began to have a sense of humor. I began to find joy in the midst of every single day, and I look back at that time as a wonderful time in my life even though it was hard –because of God’s grace.
Discovering the Real Meaning of Grace
Leslie Ludy: Now remember, grace is more than the hug of God. It’s the enabling power to do what you could never do in your own strength. When it comes to rejoicing in the midst of trials take the step of obedience to say, “Lord, I may not feel joy, but I choose to rejoice. I receive Your grace to do what I can’t do on my own.” As you take those steps of obedience, He supplies the joy. He supplies the feelings of joy that you need.
I love the story of Corrie and Betsy in the prison that they were in. They were faced with a circumstance when their barracks was infested with fleas. It was already a very filthy and depressing place, but now it was infested with fleas. Betsy challenged Corrie, “We are to rejoice in all things – give thanks in all things. We need to give thanks for these fleas.” Corrie dragged her feet on that one and said, “Even God can’t make me thankful for a flea!”
But out of obedience, they both chose to say, “Lord, we thank You for this trial. We thank You for these fleas.” What they found is that God turns all things for our good when we choose to rejoice out of obedience even if we don’t immediately feel the emotion. They found out a few days later or a few weeks later, I’m not sure which one. Not too long later, they found out that the reason they were able to have their nightly Bible studies and they were never caught is because the guards wouldn’t go in that barracks because it was infested with fleas.
The fleas were actually God’s gift to them and His protection so that they could read their Bible, worship, spend time with Him, and witness to the other prisoners. What an incredible story! Look at the difficult things in your life and recognize that when Paul said, “Rejoice always!” He wrote that from a prison cell. He did not write that out of his own strength, out of his own emotion, just because he was naturally happy to be in that situation, but because of the grace of God.
Leslie Ludy: I hope you’ve enjoyed this week’s episode. If you want to take this truth of living joyfully deeper in your life, if you would like to learn how to build a lifestyle around heavenly joy no matter what you’re walking through and connect with likeminded women from all around the world, I hope you’ll consider joining us for our 2018 Set Apart Conference, May 25-26th in Windsor, Colorado. Or you can join us via simulcast from anywhere in the world. If you choose to do a simulcast you can stream it up to three months after the event.
This event is truly amazing! It will really encourage you. It will lay a strong foundation in your life to find your fulfillment in Christ and to truly be radiant with a radiance that impacts this world. It’s a great event for women of all ages, so I hope I’ll see you there! Go to setapart.org to learn more about this conference. I pray that you have a blessed and Christ-centered week.
- Looking for more resources on overcoming fear and growing in courage? Check out our resources page here for more encouragement.