This week’s short message by Pastor Eric Stetson. Watch the video or read text below.
In the middle of Lent, it’s important to pause to remember that religion isn’t supposed to be only about discipline and sacrifice — it’s also about rejoicing in the knowledge of a God who loves us unconditionally. God calls us to spiritual growth, to be sure, but we shouldn’t put so much pressure on ourselves that we lose the ability to feel joy in our faith and our lives.
As wonderful as it is to feel joyful, we also shouldn’t try to force ourselves to be happy when we’re going through hard times. Is the year-long pandemic getting you down? Have you lost a loved one, or lost your job or your business, or is social isolation making you feel lonely?
It’s okay to feel emotions like sadness and grief. Don’t worry! Allowing yourself to feel the pain when you’re hurting isn’t going to attract more negative energy to yourself, and you didn’t cause your own misfortunes because of an insufficiently positive attitude.
That’s the lesson of the story of Job in the Bible. Job is a righteous man who loses everything — his material resources, his family, and even his own health. He cries out in lamentation to God.
But despite his suffering, Job doesn’t lose faith, trusting in God’s plan of ultimate redemption: “I know that my redeemer lives,” says Job. “I myself will see him with my own eyes — I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!” [Job 19:25,27]
When we believe this, we can face trials and tribulations and keep hope alive in our hearts. We can even be joyful, knowing that God is always working in our lives and our world as an ever-present source of rebirth and renewal. “Shout for joy, you heavens; rejoice, you earth; burst into song, you mountains!” says the prophet Isaiah. “For the Lord comforts his people and will have compassion on his afflicted ones.” [Isa. 49:13]
With that kind of faith, we can rejoice, no matter our circumstances.