I can think back over the times after Christ brought me to Himself and remember times when joy in Christ seemed as near as the oxygen in my lungs. I have had seasons where all I wanted was to consume more of the Scripture, where all I wanted was closeness with Jesus.
I write that I can think back and remember them, is that I have not been in that season. If I am honest, which is often one of the few things we don't do in church, I have not been in that season for quite some time. Don't get me wrong, in this season I have tasted joy. I have had moment of it, times of closeness more than any I had previously. But there has been a very large difference in the joy that came earlier and the joy that I have had over this season.
I have had to fight for this joy. Tooth and nail some times. It has cost all of me. I have rested upon the promise that mercy is new each morning, because I have often gone to sleep feeling as though I had none and nothing left. Many times I have been tempted to turn back. I have had more than my share of days where I thought that I had gone as far as I could.
When I was 14 years old my dad told me something that has stuck with me ever since. We were half way through walking across New England and half way up Mt. Washington. I was 14 and somewhere between a fat kid and an in-shape teenager. We had been hiking since early in the morning and I was about done. I had gone about as far as I though I could. We sat and drank some water. My dad told me that we could go back, we could forget that the mountain even had a summit and return to the van we were sleeping in. But we were half-way up. But as far as we had come it would be harder to get back to the bottom than to keep going up. And so he talked me into persisting. We got to the top and I felt as though I had slain a giant. I felt as though after this I could do anything. I have climbed a few other mountains since then, and many of them taller. But most of them have now blend together, though beautiful at the time they have become faint memories. Almost forgotten. Their lessons have been lost. They took little from me, and in return they gave me the same.
In my walk with Christ I have had many 'mountain top' experiences. I have felt that almost mystic movements came quickly and I have shed my share of tears at my share of alters. But most of them have now blended together, though beautiful at the time they have become faint memories. Almost forgotten. Their lessons have been lost. They took little from me, and in return they gave me the same.
At the top, my pops spoke to me something that I shall evermore keep close at hand. Something that I have often called back upon. "Nothing worth doing is ever done easy." And I am sure that many of you have learned just as I have, that when something comes easy it often shall leave the same.
In his fist epistle, in the first chapter, St Peter wrote to a church that was fighting for joy. "In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ." (6-7)
Peter tells us all what I have been learning. Though we are grieved. Though we are depressed. Though we are anxious. Though we fall, we suffer, we stumble, we feel like giving up, we fill-in-the-blank. This will last only a little while. For at the very worst, what is a lifetime in the face of an eternity? Each time we feel like giving up, we have a Father who reminds us that going down will be harder than going further up and further in. That when these things cost us, when they test us, only then shall they be remembered and called upon.
So, as I had had to fight over this season I have also learned. I have learned to trust the voice of my Father calling me further up. I have seen that when joy is fought for it is truly savored. I have seen God call me deeper in. For it is easy to remember that Christ declared to us that He has overcome the world, but we often like to forget that He only said this after promising that within it we would have, and be troubled.
So I invite you into the pain of the fight. For only though it shall we see the true joy of triumph.