I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. My fiance, Lowe and I were sitting in a dimly lit room somewhere in Beijing, China. Riding buses, taxis and walking without saying a word, our Chinese friends led us all over the city to this apartment so we couldn’t retrace our steps. Other Chinese quietly entered the room of the small house church one by one. We sat in chairs along the wall to hear his testimony. The elderly man who was originally from the city where we lived in northeast China wanted to meet us. He stood and began speaking in Chinese. Listening intently, we heard him begin to tell of his trust in Jesus, how after coming to Christ he actually died of a fatal sickness. How three days later, Jesus appeared and brought him back to life. How so many people came to Christ from his testimony. How Jesus appeared to him one morning preparing him to be thrown in prison for his faith. Decades of surviving in a dark prison telling others about God. And then being set free from prison but continuing his ministry under watchful eyes. I felt like I was reliving the book of Acts.
And what was the most unbelievable? The stories, his faith, his strength, the hundreds who came to Christ? No. His JOY! Unexplainable joy spilling over every word and sentence. The smile on his face. Saying “Praise God!” after almost every sentence. How could this man be so full of joy after all he had been through in his life – the suffering and persecution for being a Christian and sharing his faith?
This is the joy that only comes through Jesus. The fruit He produces in the life of a believer who clings to Him. The result of walking with Him so closely that no circumstances, fear, persecution or trial can take it away.
The psalmist says it clearly– “In your presence is fullness of joy.” Psalm 16:11.
He begins by asking God to preserve him (Psalm 16:1-2), “… for in you I take refuge…you are my Lord; I have no good apart from you”. He is in desperate need of God’s closeness. When we are facing pain, trials, hardship, persecution and fear we need security. God is our security. He loves us, forgives us, comforts us, cares for us, and knows all about us. Through knowing Him I experience that unexplainable joy that the world and it’s goods can’t give and don’t understand. Nothing can take that away. No circumstance, person or even prison.
Happiness depends on what happens to me. Joy depends on what happens within me. Or really who lives in me – Jesus.
I look back on that time in China and think of that dear brother who joyfully suffered so much. His testimony reminds me that no matter what comes my way, God is big enough to handle it as I walk with him. His closeness is my joy. “…He is the source of strength and joy.” 1 Chronicles 16:27
Are you facing trials, fears, disappointments, loneliness, persecution, or hardship? Go to the One who can take it all and give you joy in return. “…the joy of the Lord is your strength.” Nehemiah 8:10