A dear friend of mine recently referenced Fernando’s Call to Joy & Pain: Embracing Suffering in Your Ministry. I thought I would take a look at it since it was related to some of the work I’ve been doing in scripture reading and Bible study.
In the introduction, Fernando addresses a very significant issue for Americans in acknowledging the “cultural incompatibility of the cross.” In the book, he will proceed to discuss both joy and struggle in the life of a Christian and how they are sometimes woven together throughout our experiences.
He points out that satisfaction competes with joy for our attention and investment. Satisfaction is not bad in and of itself, but when we pursue it at the cost of things that God has asked us to do or to forsake, then we’re in trouble. Fernando indicates that addiction is perhaps the most pronounced expression of satisfaction that has won out over joy in a person’s life. However, he reminds the reader that, “without the joy of the Lord, all pleasure has a hollow ring to it.”
I would agree that particularly in the current generations, we are facing a strong temptation day after day, to pursue satisfaction over a deeper, truer Christianity. Experientially, satisfaction fades away all too quickly, and we find ourselves feeling empty again and wanting something or someone else to fill that void.
Over the last several years, I’ve become increasingly convinced that our capacity to know the fullness of joy is connected to our willingness to receive pain. I think when we push away the painful times in our lives or attempt to ignore them, we are also cutting off the potential for a more complete joy that the Lord ushers in after a season of trials, or waiting, or growing.