I have a tendency to go overboard when I face a problem. It is as if anything related to that problem is contaminated and therefore impossible to find delight in. But recently while reading 2 Corinthians, I found myself convicted regarding that attitude.
The Corinthian church had a lot of issues. Not only does Paul fuss at them in the two letters we currently have, but there is possibly one more letter in which Paul comes down pretty hard on the church. He shed tears over these people because of their disregard for the things he had taught them. And yet, he still has the ability to say this:
I do not speak to condemn you, for I have said before that you are in our hearts to die together and to live together. Great is my confidence you you; great is my boasting on your behalf. I am filled with comfort; I am overflowing with joy in all our affliction. 2 Corinthians 7:3-4
I almost wanted to cry when I read these verses. I realized how infrequently – as in, almost never – I find joy in every situation and person, even those which bring me great frustration. Yet Paul had such an incredible love for this church that no amount of sin, griping, bad-mouthing, or bickering could keep him from rejoicing in them. Nothing could keep him from boasting about them. In fact, the very thought of them even brought him comfort in his afflictions!
In Monday’s post I wrote about God’s love for Solomon, the child born to David and Bathsheba after their marriage and the death of their first child. Between that story and this passage in 2 Corinthians, it seems that maybe God is trying to knock some truth into my thick skull about finding joy in the things that bring Him joy. I think maybe He’s trying to show me that I walk through this life pretty well blinded to the beauty of His hand. But, the beauty is still there. There is always reason for rejoicing. There is always cause for great joy. There is always a source of comfort. There is always reason to boast. I might not like the source for these things. I might prefer that it all come from a much more desirable interaction. But, I will never truly learn to see God’s hand all around me until I begin to see ways to rejoice even in situations that seem completely devoid of God’s hand or in people who seem to offer no comfort.
The thing about Paul’s statement here to the Corinthians is that this attitude gives him credibility when he gives an instruction in another letter. This letter is to the Philippian church, a congregation which seems to be much less problematic than the Corinthian church. Paul has instruction for the Philippians, but very little correction or condemnation. But one of Paul’s instructions directs the Philippians to have the same attitude in life that he had toward the Corinthian believers.
Do all things without grumbling or disputing; so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world. Philippians 2:14-15
Paul appeared as a light in the world because he lived this. Am I willing to set aside my grumbling to appear the same way? Am I willing to rejoice and boast in whatever good I can see of God, even in the things that bring me frustration and break my heart? Am I willing to look for it?
May our eyes be open to God’s work. May we see it everywhere, even in the sources of our frustration. And may we be ever willing to rejoice in His work and so stand with credibility as lights in this world.