African theologian Tertullian said, “Your joy is where your hope is.” He meant hope can give us joy in the midst of pain—when we have a solid basis for our hope. That’s what kept Paul optimistic in his difficulties. We read in 1 Corinthians Chapter 4: “We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down but we are not destroyed. Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies. That’s why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that outweighs them and will last forever. So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.” With this outlook on life, Paul had joy despite physical pain, despite persecution by those who rejected the Gospel. He had joy by focusing on God’s big picture. He knew God cared for him even when things looked bleak. And he kept his eye on God’s big promise of future glory. With the eye of faith in a caring God, we can have joy and hope in the midst of pain.
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