September 6 – A Changing Culture – Adversity

Read John 16:16-33

Deafening silence, fine mess, seriously funny, genuine imitation- all oxymorons that clearly confuse us! 

Today’s reading seems like it falls under the same category. Jesus speaks of both sorrow and joy in the same sentence. Paul also reiterates this in 2 Corinthians 6:10, “as sorrowful yet always rejoicing.” Sorrow and joy are contradictory words in our world, but Jesus brings unity to them. They are not rivals, but rather companions. Learning to live with these as companions is a key to the peace that Jesus mentioned in John 16:33. His purpose: “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace.”

His promise: “In this world you will have trouble.” His power: “But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

Since I was a little girl, I have sung the chorus, “Standing on the promises of Christ my King… Glory in the highest I will shout and sing, standing on the promises of God.” We tend to gravitate toward and pick out the promises that make us feel good, but in today’s passage, Jesus promises that we will have adversity. We all have experienced that. Just last evening I received a phone call with discouraging news regarding an extended family member. The promise of “you will have trouble” is not foreign to any of us, but do we live in Jesus’ overcoming power?

This summer, during our continued long wait for full-time employment for my husband, I became bogged down in discouragement. Reading in Psalm 40, I found that I could relate to the pit of destruction and miry clay in which David was stuck. Living in adversity, sorrow and joy were at odds with each other, but the power of Him lifting me out of the pit and setting my feet upon the rock- the rock of Christ- making my footsteps firm restored my joy and peace. Psalm 40:3 says, “And He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God.” How do we sing in the midst of adversity? By allowing sorrow and joy to walk side by side.

I love the bookends in the book of Habakkuk. Habakkuk begins with the cry, “How long, O Lord, will I call for help?” The prophet concludes his book with his heart’s resolution, “even if, I will.” Even if the circumstances do not change, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.” (see Habakkuk 3:17-19)

Yes, sorrow and joy can coexist. We will have adversity, but Jesus’ power offers us His peace. Our situations that cause us sorrow may not alter, but He gives us the power to live in His joy.  In my Bible’s margin of Habakkuk, I wrote, “Do we judge God by our circumstances or judge our circumstances in light of the character of God?” God has not changed and His power is available to us so that we can be sorrowful, but always rejoicing.

It’s really not an oxymoron!

Charline Engle

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