Ever feel like you’re a punching bag? Like every time you turn around some person or circumstance is throwing punches at you? Sometimes it’s just a mere irritation, but other times they are powerful, knocking the wind right out of you.
I love kickboxing. Seriously! Yes, I probably look like a total spaz while I’m doing it, but I do it in the safety of my own home with my DVD’s, so the only one who sees me when I do those awesome kicks and punches is me and the Lord. Oh, and Gary also has seen a few of them, but don’t worry, I’ve never actually hit him (a few have been close, however – and maybe even on purpose).
But there was one time when I did show off some of my punches and kicks to a group of ladies when I taught a class at a women’s day retreat – and it was a hoot!
I had on my nice slacks and shoes, but as I walked out onto the stage I kicked off my shoes, sending them flying, and put everything I had into a great side-kick.
I’m sure I must’ve looked every inch the professional – probably like Wonder Woman without her cute little outfit.
But my class that day was not about how to do kickboxing, but about how to find joy when you yourself get kicked.
It’s tough. The Bible tells us in Romans 8:28 that “all things” work together for the good of those that love Him, and verses like Ephesians 5:20 and 1 Thessalonians 5:18 tell us to thank God always, but let’s face it – when we’re faced with great tragedy, we just plain hurt, sometimes all over…
However we must remember – evil is evil. God never wants us to thank Him for evil, because evil does not come from Him, only good does (James 1:13-18). On the other hand, because God is God, He brings good results out of evil’s gut-punches.
So, why does God allow trials and suffering? Oh, my friends, there are so many reasons.
Look at someone like the late Amy Carmichael, who served as a missionary in South India for over 50 years ministering to girls dedicated to becoming Hindu temple prostitutes.
As if that wasn’t difficult enough, the last 20 years of her life were spent confined to her bedroom in constant pain due to a severe injury. Yet during those last years she did all her writing – poems, devotional books and accounts of her ministry.
But why? Here she was devoted to missionary work – loving children with the love of Jesus. So why did she have to spend the last 20 years of her life in so much pain?
Billy Graham testified in his book Holy Spirit, that when he visited her years ago, joy so filled her room that everyone who visited her came away praising God.
He again went back after Amy had gone on to heaven, and Amy’s former nurse asked him if he would lead the group in prayer. Billy stated that he began, but became so overwhelmed by a sense of God’s presence that he broke down – which was something he rarely did. His companion then started to pray, but the same thing happened to him. As they left Billy truly felt the joy of the Lord in his heart.
Amy’s life exhibited true joy – even amidst her pain. Plus her legacy has continued on even to this day through all her books and devotionals, which probably would not have been written had she not been confined to her room for such an extended period of time.
There’s so many other examples to share. People like Joni Eareckson Tada who’s been confined to a wheelchair with quadriplegia since she was a teenager, but who has started many ministries to help those who are helpless. She also shares the joys of Jesus all over the world through her speaking and writing.
And of course the Bible is full of people like Joseph and Job who lost everything, yet their stories have helped millions of people through the years persevere when life throws those wicked punches at them.
Finally, think of your pastors. Gary and I have many pastor friends who have been so precious to us throughout the years. Yet they probably feel often like they’re getting punched in the stomach almost weekly when they step down from the pulpit as they become barraged with all the snide, mean criticisms which come slapping them in the face.
Yet they have the joy of the Lord – they believe in Him and trust Him.
Remember, loved ones, God promises for the brokenhearted He will bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, and that it’s through our pain that the world can see joy is possible as we keep our eyes lifted on Him (Isaiah 61:3).