One of the most powerful prayers and hymns I’ve ever sung says “…For behold, through the cross joy has come into all the world. Ever blessing the Lord, we praise his Resurrection: for by enduring the cross, he has destroyed death by death.”
Imagine that something as horrible as the cross producing such joy as a renewal of all the universe and the undoing of death!
And yet, that message is at the heart of the Good News of the Orthodox Christian Faith. Something meant for evil produces a joyous end. Something meant to destroy ends up destroying destruction! With that reality in mind, one can become a joyous person knowing that even the bad times in life are filled with the potential for joy!
Look at our lesson today in Hebrews 10:32-38:
Brethren, recall the former days when, after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, sometimes being publicly exposed to abuse and affliction, and sometimes being partners with those so treated. For you had compassion on the prisoners, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one. Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that you may do the will of God and receive what is promised. “For yet a little while, and the coming one shall come and shall not tarry; but my righteous one shall live by faith.”
St. Paul is struggling here to remind these Hebrew Christians of how they once understood how even difficult times produced joy in them after they had embraced the Lord Jesus as the expected Messiah. They went through so much because of their faithfulness to being Christian, even to the point where they held their lives so loosely in their hands that they even “joyfully accepted the plundering of your property…”
How could they do that? How could anyone look at being mistreated, being abused, and even having friends and relatives abused, even to the point that they lost even their material possessions, and still maintain joy? They could do this amazing interior work only because of an eternal reality.
They were already experiencing the joys of the eternal life in Christ and they understood that temporary possessions, temporary status, temporary comfort was no solid foundation for a truly joyful life! They understood in the face of such mistreatment and persecution that even their pain was temporary in the light of the Life given to them, won for them by Jesus Christ.
It now makes so much sense that we in the Orthodox faith call our members “the Faithful,” not “the Happy” or “the Successful” or even “the Comfortable.” No, we Orthodox understand that all those things are so susceptible by a downturn in our circumstances. One stumble, one bad turn, and “poof” there goes our happiness, or comfort, or success. But “the Faithful” understand that circumstances are always a mixed bag of good things and difficult things. So, to allow external circumstances power in my life to govern my joy or my peace means I make myself a slave to shifting sands of temporary situations. You can never be “the Faithful” when your peace is constantly at the mercy of external situations!
But you were meant for a joy that is immune to either the delusions of euphoria or despondency. You were meant to live your life with an internal joy and peace unaffected by the ups and downs of life.
So, today, are you struggling with keeping your peace and joy when life is difficult? Are you wondering “why” God is allowing something to happen to you that scares you, or hurts you, or makes you sad? Stop in this very moment and look through the present difficulty to the eternal reality that God loves you more than you, yourself, knows how to love and He is constant and unmoving in His love for you SO THAT every temporary situation is placed in a proper perspective and never able to ultimately destroy you! You are Orthodox on Purpose which means you are free to be joyful no matter what’s happening around you!