A Kingdom of Suffering or Joy?
Perhaps you’ve heard that your Christian experience is meant to be one of joy, fulfillment, destiny, and satisfaction. There are plenty of biblical promises that say so. Or maybe you’ve heard that your Christian experience is meant to be one of tribulation, adversity, and sacrifice. There are plenty of verses that say that too. So which is it—fulfillment or sacrifice? Reaching your goals or giving them up? “Fullness of joy” or the “suffering of the cross”? How can you sort it all out?
The truth is found in both approaches, even though they seem contradictory. All contradictions are resolved when we realize how to weigh these things appropriately. The big picture is joy and fulfillment; the smaller picture is sacrifice and the cross. The latter doesn’t compete with the former; it fits inside it.
We see this often in scripture. The children of Israel endured a lot, but only because a Promised Land awaited them. David lived in danger and exile for years, but always headed toward kingship. Jesus struggled mightily in Gethsemane and surrendered his will to the Father, but only for the joy set before him (Hebrews 12:2). In the kingdom of God, taking up a cross is never the destination. It’s the journey to a greater reality.
Live with that awareness. God doesn’t ask you to sacrifice simply for the sake of sacrifice; it’s leading somewhere. He doesn’t tell you to deny yourself perpetually; he offers fullness of joy as a result. Your discipleship is not doom and gloom; it’s perseverance on the way to a wonderful resolution. Never let your cross loom larger than the joy beyond it. Live every day with hope and anticipation.
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