I don't believe it's much of a stretch to say that many people in our nation are wondering, "What's to be happy about?"
Think about it. In this current economy and culture, what's to be happy about?
Let me back up about 80 years to share my perspective. My grandmother was born in 1910. Her marriage literally got underway at the same time that the Great Depression did. My grandparents were the children of immigrants from Poland. They had 8th grade educations and few skills with which to earn a living for their family. And yet, if you were to listen to my mom's stories from childhood, she was without want.
They raised their children to be hard working, honest, and tough. In fact, my grandparents were all those things and then some. The bible says, in James 1:2-4, 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.
Indeed, my grandparents would have their faith put to the ultimate test. I wish I could say that the Great Depression was their great test. I have no doubt it was incredibly challenging, given their lack of education and job skills. But the future held a much greater test for them. The loss of a child. Their first-born child, who died a week after birthing their first grandchild, at the young age of just 26. Her name was Toni and I am her namesake.
My mom was only 13 when her sister, Toni, died. My mom and her family lived in the tiniest coal mining "patch" on a hillside in PA, so everyone felt the loss in one way or another. But no one more than my grandparents. Their daughter had died suddenly and their faith was clearly tested to the core.
My mom describes the pain. The stress. The wounds. The scars. The faith.
In spite of the darkest of darkest days, my grandparents fiercely clung to their faith. I have such wonderful memories of catching my grandfather, when I was just a little girl, sitting at the side of his bed in the early morning light, praying (I have his bible, btw, and it is among the most valuable of all my possessions. I'm tearing up just thinking about its significance right now).
How did they manage such pain and loss without losing their faith? I believe there are two answers and I'd like to share them with you.
First, I am able to look at their lives now in retrospect. The hardships. The loss. The deep, deep faith in spite of very obvious suffering. And I conclude that they were able to successfully and actively defend their faith during those hard times by actively employing the full armor of God. They walked fully immersed in the truth of His word and in rightousness. They held fast to their faith and their salvation. And they prayed. Sometimes I would ask my grandma, after Pap passed away, to pray for me. I had not yet made a decision to embrace Jesus as my Savior, but I do vividly remember feeling comforted by knowing that she, an incredible model of the Proverbs 31 woman, was praying for me. I had no idea back then how much their example would impact my future. What a gift!
The second reason I believe my grandparents persevered in the testing of their faith comes directly from James 1:2-3, Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. My grandparents went through times where happiness was not within reach. But they demonstrated that they knew and had spritual JOY. Unlike happiness, which is dependent on what's happening around us, JOY abides because of the One who lives IN us. My grandparents loved Jesus and allowed the Holy Spirit to reside in their hearts. They experienced the faithfulness of God in their circumstances and acknowledged Him, always acknowledged Him, as Almighty.
I am so very inspired by their lives and their example to me. Through them, I am challenged to immerse myself daily in the Word of God (also known as reading my bible at some point of each day). I am challenged to pray. And I am challenged to experience the joy of the Lord in the midst of my own trials. It's a tall order, to be sure. But my grandparents, humble people of incredible faith, lived up to it. And they walked it out in front of me, just as (I believe) God would have it.
[Note: If you would like to read more about my amazing grandmother and her life and loss on the little hill, I blogged about it HERE. And I speak of the loss of my aunt (and more) HERE.]
Live wise in Him!