A few summers ago, I regularly worked out with a physical trainer while rehabbing my way back from an injury. I remember well in one session trying to do exercises with what seemed an unreasonable amount of weight for my damaged body to control. I am a hard worker and never like to admit defeat, but that day I was considering rejecting the trainer’s instruction and living with the consequences. Pressing on seemed too hard.

Flirting with the idea of throwing in the towel must have been evident on my face. The trainer got right in front of me. She locked her eyes with mine and said, “Angie, don’t you quit on me. You are at a crossroads. Decide to push through. This is where we change your body and make it strong again.”

James 1:2 tells us to, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds.” The Greek word for joy is chara, and it means rejoicing and gladness. The joy that James is speaking of is knowing that Jesus is present. No matter what life throws at us, we have an opportunity to be infused with the incorruptible joy offered to us. We receive that joy by acknowledging and then focusing on the presence of Jesus Christ in our circumstances.

The same summer I was working with the physical trainer; I lost a dear friend to breast cancer. She was young, her family still needed her, and she left a considerable hole in the creative community with which she had shared her gifts. As she was dying, I struggled to find a reason to “consider it joy.”  Where was Jesus in this suffering?

Shortly after her death, God allowed me the opportunity to work side by side with her family and friends to plan details of a memorial service. We shared stories and bonded in our love for her, and I was welcomed into a circle of people I had never met before her passing. Jesus was there, and my heart felt His joy.

I received an invitation to speak at her service, and as I sat at my computer praying for God to give me the right words, He brought sweet memories to my mind. The words poured out, and I later shared them from my heart. Some brought laughter, and some brought tears, but they all helped us say goodbye to her. Jesus was there, and my heart felt His joy.

As the trainer locked eyes with me during that difficult workout session, so Jesus will lock eyes with us when a life storm is raging. He will stand in our line of sight and invite us to see and receive Him. He may not fix our problem immediately. But He will stay right there and be our companion on the painful path unfolding in front of us. When we decide to choose His joy even when the weight seems unbearable, that is the place that changes our heart and makes it strong again.


This post is chapter 4/5 of church words – REJOICE