How will we choose to handle the good and the bad things that life brings? God gives us biblical principles and promises from His Word to give us wisdom and help us face every situation we find ourselves in.
One major obstacle in maintaining joy in the journey is disappointment. Disappointment happens when we don’t reach our goals or realize our desires, when our expectations in ourselves, others, or in the promises of God are shattered.
We can either focus on the disappointments or we can begin to understand what God wants to accomplish in us through all of it. The measure we meet God and learn from Him in those disappointments will be the measure we begin experiencing the joy of the Lord as we travel life’s journey.
The apostle Paul was put in prison for preaching the gospel. He was in a situation that had the potential to completely discourage him from continuing in his walk with the Lord. Yet he remained steadfast and never lost his joy.
Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel. As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. And because of my chains, most of the brothers and sisters have become confident in the Lord and dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear. It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. The latter do so out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains. But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice. Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, (Philippians 1:12-18).
Paul experienced very difficult circumstances in his travels to Rome and he was put in prison because of his faith (Acts 21-28). Paul was not complaining about his circumstances or his chains.
Instead, he believed that the Lord was actually using the situation to advance the gospel and cause of Christ and, therefore, had continual joy.
It was his desire to impart what he learned through this seeming calamity to the church at Philippi. He wanted them to view:
Every obstacle as an opportunity to advance God’s will
Paul wanted to comfort and encourage the fellow believers by informing them that all that had happened to him - his chains, his imprisonment for the gospel had not impeded his ministry but have actually served to advance it!
It may be hard to believe that God can bring something good out of a very difficult situation. In Romans 1:15, Paul had a desire to preach the gospel in Rome, but he had no idea what circumstances God would use to bring this to pass.
Instead of coming to Rome as a preacher, he came as a prisoner. Instead of preaching to the masses, God gave him a pulpit in a prison to a congregation of 8 Praetorian guards!
The guards would rotate every six hours, so Paul had a captive audience 4xs a day for two years. If you think about it, those guards were chained to him not vice versa. We know many responded to the gospel and took that message right into the household of Caesar and to parts of the Roman empire where Paul could never go himself. When Paul realized what God was accomplishing through his chains He rejoiced. God used his situation to pave the way:
for others to hear the Gospel message
for other believers to preach the Gospel without fear
When Paul put God’s plan ahead of his own selfish ambition and desire for comfort and ease, he began to see God’s divine plan unfold.
Every disappointment as a divine appointment
We live in a world where sin, violence, greed, envy, and self-centeredness run rampant and are disappointed by people, circumstances, and society in general. Other times we are disappointed because we place unrealistic expectations on ourselves, on others, or on God. And yet other times, we experience disappointment because we place more value on pursuing our dreams than pursuing the will of God.
Have you ever been disappointed in God because He did not do things according to how or when you expected Him to work? Why didn’t God answer my prayer? Often our faith in God waivers and our response to God isn’t good because we believe we are entitled to the good life and when we don’t experience it, we focus on our disappointment in God which steals our joy.
Paul placed his focus on a sovereign God who used this providential delay to his original plan as a divine appointment to bring the gospel to the Praetorian guards in Rome. This is what gave him such joy in his circumstances.
Do you view your disappointments and painful circumstances as a place where God is working in you and through you? Do you see disappointments as opportunities to call out to God, to discover His higher purpose for your life?
Instead, he believed God had a greater reason for putting him in that jail, where he not only shared the gospel but wrote the Bible.
Do you believe that God orders our “stops?” Paul could have gotten angry at the injustice of being imprisoned, impatient with the process, or simply quit the ministry.
Every circumstance in the grand scheme of things
Paul was far more focused on how God was providentially working through his imprisonment to accomplish His own plans.
He was viewing his life’s circumstances in the grand scheme of things. God was the source of his joy and he would not allow what others were saying or doing to steal that joy! Paul realized that God had a purpose for everything he allowed in his life and was convinced that God would orchestrate everything for his good and for His glory.
C H Spurgeon said,
However great my troubles, they are not so great as my Father’s power; however difficult may be my circumstances, yet all things around me are working together for good. He who holds up the starry heavens can also support my soul without a single apparent prop; he who guides the stars in their well-ordered courses, even when they seem to move in mazy dances, surely he can overrule my trials in such a way that out of confusion he will bring order; and from seeming evil produce lasting good (C H Spurgeon).
We cannot handle prolonged trials and being with people who cause us constant pain or distress in our own strength.
It is only possible in the strength of the Lord. It is only when we are filled with (controlled by) the Spirit Who alone can bring forth the fruit of joy even in the most adverse conditions or with the worst of people.
On Whom or what are you relying on today to give you the strength to deal with disappointment, to forbear when treated unjustly especially if it's someone in your own church?
Nehemiah said, "Do not be grieved, for the joy of the LORD is your strength" (Nehemiah 8:10-12). The secret to Paul’s joy was that it was not dependent on his circumstances. He was filled by an ever-deepening confidence and comfort because of his relationship with an all-powerful, good God who is sovereign over all.