One morning when it was nearly time for me to get up, I quickly turned up the radio for I was listening to the most amazing testimony. Anthony Ray Hinton, an innocent man, had just been released from 30 years on death row.
“You must be so bitter,” his interviewer questioned. “They have robbed you of thirty years of your life.”
It was his answer that arrested me. “No,” he replied. “I won’t allow anything to rob me of my joy.”
In those thirty years in prison, he was busy guarding his own heart against bitterness and anger. He spoke into my heart that day. I listened later to hear his testimony again, and also looked it up on the internet, but I did not find these words repeated. I heard his words that morning though, and I am determined to share them wherever and whenever I can.
I was challenged by what he said. Am I always full of joy, or do I allow the enemy to come and rob me of my inheritance? Jesus not only left us peace as our inheritance, but he said, “Ask and you will receive that your joy may be full.” I have learned the hard way to guard my purse so that I, through Winston’s amazing testimony, may learn to let nothing rob me of my joy.
When I was young and not long out of college, one my friends was struggling with a broken relationship. I was ready to encourage her in her self-pity, but another friend spoke out strongly saying that nothing can rob us of our joy except sin. She quoted the parable of the prodigal son — when he had confessed his sin and returned in repentance to the Father, “they began to be merry.”
I still have to remind myself of this lesson. If we are indulging in self-pity, then it is the self who is on the throne and not Jesus. But thankfully God is only a prayer away and we are immediately forgiven, restored, and able to rejoice without ceasing.
For many years I knew God wanted me to become a missionary. I thought it would be very hard, but God gave me a wonderful promise; a promise of joy and peace. Single and going alone, I realised that while many women had a husband, children, and a fine house in a civilised land, if they didn’t have joy and peace they still had nothing.
So I eventually went to work in the remote highlands of Papua New Guinea. Many times I would remind God of that promise of joy. God is faithful and always answered.
Now, back in the UK and struggling with widowhood and old age, I still do a lot of asking and God does a lot of answering, anointing me with the oil of gladness.
Soon after my husband died, I went to a house group; while trying to return to my car I had to struggle against wind and weather. “Oh Lord,” I complained, “I don’t like being a widow.” The next moment it was as if Jesus was beside me and we were laughing together. I realised how awful it would be if we did like being widows. Now I tell people that God does not necessarily take away the pain, but God does give joy and peace. Hallelujah.
We can only imagine the devastation of the disciples when they had seen the Savior killed and buried. Thank God we can experience the joy of Easter morning when Jesus appeared and gave them the glad assurance that he had conquered death and hell, and that through the Holy Spirit they would always know that he was with them.
Is there anything that can steal our joy? Can tribulation, hardship, famine, or other unspeakable suffering? Paul assured us that in all these things we are more than conquerors, and God is able to take the worst the enemy can do against us and turn it into a testimony, as God is doing for Anthony Ray Hinton. And so we, like Paul and Silas while they were jailed at Philippi, can always sing joyful songs of praise to God.
God’s gift to us all is contentment. It was in my single days in New Guinea that God taught me to say, “I am delighting myself in the Lord and God is giving me the desired of my heart.” I am still affirming this truth.
This little poem, written some years ago, tells how God has so often come to me in answer to my cry for God’s joy.
Joy is a fountain, springing, though the land is parched and dry,
When heat as blanket presses, gentle breezes from on high.
Joy is a lighted window for the child who’s far from home,
A hand upon your shoulder when you think you’re left alone.
Joy is a skylark thrilling, rainbow’s circle in a storm,
The promise of God’s presence and his strength for each new morn.
Joy is the tug of anchor when storms sweep you from the shore,
A voice from deep within that speaks of life for evermore.
Joy is the sight of heaven given the Savior on the cross
The certainty that Jesus will bring blessing out of loss.
Joy is Jesus!
You can read more from Pauline by visiting her blog: plreadywriter.blogspot.co.uk.
I join many of those who will pray for you as you seek to discern what you are called to be at this moment. May God grant you the courage to fulfill that calling. May we all open our eyes and see the misery, open our ears and hear the cries of God’s people, and, like God through the Lord Jesus Christ, be incarnate amongst them.”
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