January 20, 1998
Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow.
Eighteen years ago today my husband and I became parents. Around 1 am we welcomed the most beautiful and precious little girl into the world. She really was a perfect baby. Great temperament, adorable face, perfect features, content and happy. The delivery was another matter and it took a long time to heal. But it reminded me of the Bible verse that says when a mother’s child is born, her anguish gives way to joy because she has brought a new baby into the world (John 16:21). Those words are so true. Her delivery was difficult, and my recovery was extensive, but once she was in my arms there was no more anguish, and I literally didn’t care about another single thing because my heart was OVERWHELMED with joy!
That passage from John is actually from a time when Jesus was explaining to his disciples what would happen to him. He was telling them plainly that they won’t like it. You will grieve, but your grief will suddenly turn to wonderful joy... So you have sorrow now, but I will see you again; then you will rejoice, and no one can rob you of that joy. (See John 16:19-24) His words tie in perfectly with James describing how troubles are opportunities for great joy.
We brought our daughter home a few days later, but we had also just bought a house. The house needed lots of fixing up and we were due to move in it in just a couple days after coming home from the hospital. So my husband worked ‘round the clock putting in new flooring, painting, replacing fixtures and all during El Nino weather; everything took twice as long and forever to dry. Poor guy. Then moving day came, and I was no help at all. All I could do was sit and hold the baby. We had a big sectional couch and he moved one section at a time and took me and the baby with the last section. (Pictured above is Abby and me on the last section!) It was smack dab in the middle of the week when everyone we know was working, so he did most of all this all by himself. What would have made normal people normally completely irritated with the work and the weather was completely eclipsed by great joy. We had this beautiful baby in the midst of all that, and that was all that mattered.
Similarly, I have Jesus. All the time. And in the midst of all that ever goes on during my worst of days or in troubled times that are sure to come, I still have him, so I still have great joy. Always. That’s why God’s Word says, Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). We certainly don’t have to be thankful FOR our bad circumstances, but we can be thankful DURING them. Like a brand new baby whose presence eclipsed physical pain and a hectic move, I want Jesus to be bigger than my troubling circumstances, so nothing and no one can rob me of great joy!
First of all, I must just thank you so much for my beautiful daughter, Abby, who is just as beautiful and precious today as the day she was born. I thank you for her sweetness and sensitivity, her talents, her fascinating personality, and her love for you. Thank you for always working everything out for us and letting us enjoy great joy. Thank you for your Son whose presence is just as real and eclipsing as our brand new baby was to us. I love you so much and thank you for the many opportunities you give us so that we can have real joy. I thank you and praise you and pray in Jesus’ name, amen.