During the season of Lent, it is common practice to forgo something as a sacrificial act. And, along with the privation of this item you are supposed to add a time of intentional reflection on a spiritual reality or truth. While at the beginning that can be easy to do, as the weeks go by, it becomes increasingly challenging. I remember a friend giving up coffee one year. Let’s just say they were not a happy camper for about a week, at least until their body adjusted to not getting that caffeine.
When we are denying ourselves something, it is difficult to see any reason to be joyful. How could we? We are denying ourselves something that we enjoy. What is interesting is that it reveals something important about what “joy” is and how we maintain an attitude defined by this idea.
Joy is something we must choose to maintain. What I mean is this, if our denial of something thing we enjoy affects how we feel, then what we feel is not properly called joy, it is happiness. Joy is what we have when we can focus our attention on what is good and right and noble. Joy is what we have when we commit to holding onto those things we know to be true, rather than the circumstances we find ourselves in. How we think about joy has to change if we are going to experience what Jesus modeled for us. That is what we should be trying to do. Let’s look at a couple of interesting verses in Hebrews 12.
1Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:1-2)
The part that really stands out and the part I want us to notice is there in verse 2. The writer of Hebrews says that for the “joy set before him,” Jesus “endured the cross.” Just think about that for a minute. Jesus was able to endure the current circumstances because he was able to think about something that was far more joy-inducing than the cross was pain-inducing. It is simply staggering to me what that could be. But whatever it could be it was worth the cost of the cross!
As we continue contemplating this journey of faith, it is important to consider if we have something that inspires such joy that we can endure the various and many trials of this life. We all need something to hold onto and if it is not found in God we may very well find ourselves disappointed when what we are holding onto crumbles through our fingertips.