by Sheri Schofield
Tim and I were soon to be married when we began talking about our spiritual gifts. This was a hot topic back in the early 80s and the recognized variety of spiritual gifts was very broad. Tim laughingly told me, “Yeah, I took a spiritual gift test once. It said that I have the gift of martyrdom!”
We both laughed. Tim was calm and patient, and he had a great sense of humor. We couldn’t see the connection with martyrdom.
I don’t have the spiritual gift of martyrdom. I’m admittedly a wimp about pain. Headache? Run to the cupboard and get some aspirin. Problem solved. Why should I suffer needlessly? And martyrdom? No, no! Not for me!
Our Founding Fathers felt the same way, for they stated the right to pursue happiness right into our Constitution’s Bill of Rights! Pain is not happiness, so I reach for the painkiller. My avoidance of pain extends into all parts of my life: avoiding painful situations, avoiding difficult people, avoiding challenges that might cost me something. I tend to go toward the easy.
But Jesus said, “Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 10:38-39 NIV).
Does that sound like the pursuit of happiness? Not to me. But is happiness what I want? Or is joy better than happiness?
What is the difference anyway? Happiness is the feeling we get when life is peaceful and everything is going our way. It is like playing in a calm, quiet lake. Joy is the feeling we get when we have successfully accomplished something difficult. The more difficult the challenge, the greater the joy.
Happiness is what we want for our children. Joy is what we hope they will discover as they grow up. Joy is not found in playing at the lake, but rather in climbing the mountain next to the lake, with all its obstacles. Joy is standing at the top of the mountain looking out over the view. Joy is learned through maturity and challenge. Joy is for grown-ups.
My husband, Tim, did indeed become a martyr – one who suffers greatly for his testimony and faith. He took a stand for Jesus that cost him dearly, and almost cost his life. Now he has severe PTSD and major depression. And I have walked side by side with him each step of the way.
This is not the path I would have chosen! Nobody deliberately walks into pain. But in the suffering, I have come to know God in a deep, abiding way that has brought me far greater joy than the easy life would have brought me.
I have discovered the joy of His presence because of the pain.
Now in this New Year, I stand near the top of the mountain, huffing and puffing, pausing for fresh wind, looking back over the way God has led me. The view from here is terrific! I see the challenges of the past as well as new goals ahead. I would not go back to playing at the lake for anything! I’m going to conquer this mountain and discover the treasures of joy on the way to the top!
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great could of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12: 1-2 NIV
About the author: Sheri Schofield is an award-winning children’s author-illustrator and children’s ministry veteran of 40 years. Sheri was named Writer of the Year in 2018 at the Colorado Christian Writers’ Conference for her work in effectively sharing the gospel of Jesus. Her ministry, Faithwind 4 Kids, can be followed on her blog at her website, http://www.sherischofield.com. Questions welcomed!
Read Sheri and her husband’s amazing story in One Step Ahead of the Devil: A Powerful Love Story. Thrust into national politics because of her husband’s work, Lissa McCloud struggles to save the life of the man she loves from those who are bent on his destruction. Based on true events, the reader is taken deep into the heart of national politics –all the way to Congress and the President of the United States.
Join the Conversation: When has pain produced the by-product of joy in your life?