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Choose: Joy in the Journey or Panic in the Pandemic

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Wednesday, June 3, 2020 @ 7:46 AM
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Randall Murphree Editor AFA Journal MORE

But let all who take refuge in You be glad, let them ever sing for joy; And may You shelter them, that those who love Your name may exult in You (Psalm 5:11, NASB).

It comes as no surprise: The word joy doesn’t show up much in the account of Job’s devastating downhill journey from great wealth, solid family, and stellar reputation to poverty, death of his children, and disrespect of his friends. When life was good, we assume Job – upright and godly man that he was – must have had an abundance of joy.

But tragedy robbed him of joy. Why was God allowing him to go through such suffering? In his loss and confusion, Job had questions – serious questions. For example:

  • “Have I not wept for the one whose life is hard? Was not my soul grieved for the needy?” (Job 30:25, NASB)
  • “Does He not see my ways and number all my steps?” (Job 31:4)

Job’s Anxiety

I understand Job’s frustration and anxiety. I’ve had questions, too. Why did my business fail when I was trying to serve God with my life? Why did God allow my godly dad and godly brother to suffer long battles with severe dementia before welcoming them to heaven? How is joy possible during a threatening viral pandemic? How do I deal with the questions of “Why, God?” and “How long must we endure?”

Well, I’ve got good news! No, I don’t have all the answers, but I’ve found a source of light and hope that helps calm my spirit in this unsettling coronavirus chaos. I’ve discovered Joy for the Journey, a little book by Matthew and Cyndy Miklasz, an Evangelical Free Church pastor and his wife.

This remarkable Wisconsin couple has traveled some pretty bumpy roads in their faith journey. They probably wouldn’t be comfortable with me calling their trials “Job-like” but their story reflects more than I think I could have borne.

A years-long battle with leukemia, colorectal cancer, and lung cancer – chemo, radiation. Meds for anxiety, depression, and panic attacks. One year in which their second child had open heart surgery at five days of age, two close family deaths occurred, and both of the Miklaszes had the flu. Serious marital communication breakdowns. Changing pastoral callings. (One chapter is titled “Parsonage Purgatory.” I’ll let you read that one for yourself.)

God’s Antidote

“I am discovering a decreasing number of people know how to journey well through their life,” Matthew writes. “This is especially true when trials are part of their journey.”

But he has found God’s antidote – obey His Word:

“Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:2-4, NASB).

Still, the Mikloszes do not over-simplify life’s harsh realities. One chapter focuses on the fact that our questions neither surprise nor insult God. They even ask readers about their personal trials: Depressed … in a black hole? Physically disabled? Suffering trauma from abuse? Buried by an avalanche of bills you can’t pay?

And they offer practical, scriptural road signs to travel that leg of the journey.

Joy for the Journey covers some 20 years of a family who seems to climb out of one pit only to be plunged into another. And there were too few seasons of respite in between. In addition to the challenges above, they have raised four children to young adulthood, helped manage a family farm, and thrived in ministry.

Writing alternating chapters, both husband and wife are transparent as they offer a glimpse into the fears and doubts that can easily derail one’s faith in God. Fortunately, there’s an upside to their narrative. The Miklaszes hit a homerun with countless insights that fulfill the promise of the book’s subtitle: “How to Walk Through Life’s Trials in a Healthy Way.”

“God has not called us to just survive the storms and surprises in life,” Matthew writes. “He calls us to endure them with joy and passion.”

Our Antibiotic

Whatever our life challenges are, Matthew says we can, “… experience a sustaining hope and joy. … Who God is and what He has done in Jesus Christ are a sure foundation for all who are facing trials” (Emphasis added).

All of us have been challenged at some level during this time: uncertainty, panic, anxiety, fear, anger. The whole world has been held hostage by an illusive silent intruder. For those of us spoiled by a life with hardly any restrictions, it’s a real test.

For me, Joy in the Journey has proven to be a potent spiritual antibiotic.

While entertained and encouraged by the Miklasz family story, the thing I’m most grateful for is that they mine what the Word of God teaches us about joy.

I challenge you to dig in, too. Create your own list of scriptural truths about joy. Here are only a few of the ones I’ve collected and am trying to recall in my daily walk with Jesus:

  • Joy is a gift from God (Nehemiah 12:43).
  • The joy of the Lord is our strength (Nehemiah 8:10).
  • Joy often follows sadness and tears (Psalm 30:5).
  • Joy is expressed in songs, shouts, and praise (Zechariah 2:10).
  • We may “enter into” the joy of Jesus (Matthew 25:23).
  • We may share our joy with others (Philippians 2:18).
  • We can be someone else’s joy (1 Thessalonians 2:20).

C.S. Lewis wrote in The Great Divorce, “No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it. Those who seek find. To those who knock, it is opened.” (See Matthew 7:7.)

Yes, an invisible virus plagues us with uncertainties, anxieties, and questions. I pray we’ll still seek joy in the journey. Seek it seriously and constantly.

 

(Editor’s Note: Learn more about Matthew and Cyndy Miklasz at https://www.mattnormalguy.com/. If ordering or purchasing Joy for the Journey, be forewarned: There are other books by the same title.)

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