by Melissa Heiland
If I’m honest, I’ll tell you, I still cringe a little bit when I hear the phrase, “joy in suffering.” The words just don’t go together in my mind, but I know they are paired in the Bible. And so, I pursue joy in suffering. I have not reached the mark on this. I am no expert, just a fellow-traveler on this journey to joy. I have searched the Bible for truth and guidance on how to experience true joy in the face of deep suffering. I have discovered eight practices that I believe are helpful for the journey.
Slow Down. Trauma has forced me to slow down. I simply cannot work at my former pace. I believe the Lord sometimes allows us to suffer, so that we will run to Him. There is healing in His presence. Spend time with the Lord every day. Allow Him to heal your wounds. You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand. Psalm 16:11 NIV
When your words came, I ate them; they were my joy and my heart’s delight, for I bear your name, Lord God Almighty. Jeremiah 15:16 NIV
Surround Yourself with Kind People. When you are suffering, people may say and do things that hurt you more. Ask the Lord to send you a friend who will listen to you and love you without judgment.
Be Kind to Yourself. When we suffer as believers, we often feel guilt for not feeling joyful and brave. Give grace to yourself. God loves you and He understands.
Have Fun. Think back to the things you enjoyed before the grief. Make a list of things that brought you joy in the past. Choose one each week. They can be simple things like reading a book or walking in the park. Make a conscious effort to do something that makes you smile.
Listen to Worship Music. Worship music can change your heart. Find songs and artists whose music touches your soul. Praise can be a sacrifice when your heart is wounded. Let Him heal you through your praise. Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise-the fruit of lips that openly profess his name. Hebrews 13:15 NIV
Be Thankful. When we are in the darkness, it is so difficult to find reasons to be thankful. Discipline your mind to find the good things in your life. Make a gratitude list. Each day, make a list of things for which you are thankful.
Keep Serving. Grief can be all-consuming. We may need to step back from serving for a while, but I encourage you to continue to look for ways to serve the Lord and others, even in your pain. There is healing in this sacrifice, as well.
Look to Heaven. As God’s beloved children, we know that our time on earth is short. We have a promise that joy is coming. Focusing on the future, which is full of joy, helps us to find joy on the journey as well. Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. 1 Peter 4:12-13 NIV
Instead of your shame you will receive a double portion, and instead of disgrace you will rejoice in your inheritance. And so you will inherit a double portion in your land, and everlasting joy will be yours. Isaiah 61:7 NIV
This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).
About the author: Melissa Heiland is the Founder and President of Beautiful Feet International, a mission organization that plants pregnancy ministries around the world. She is an international speaker and author who is passionate about mommies, babies and sharing the Gospel. She has written devotionals for pregnant moms, new mothers and short-term mission teams, as well as a children’s book based on Psalm 139. She and her husband Ken have 6 children and 5 grandchildren.
Join the conversation: Have you ever found joy in suffering? Please share!