The following poem was written by St. Cyprian in the 3rd Century, shortly after his conversion to Christianity.
This is a cheerful world as I see it
from my garden under the shadow of my vines.
But if I were to ascend some high mountain
and look out over the wide lands,
you know very well what I should see:
brigands on the highways,
pirates on the sea,
in the amphitheaters men murdered
to please applauding crowds;
selfishness and cruelty
and misery and despair
under all roofs.
It is a bad world, Donatus,
an incredibly bad world.
But I have discovered in the midst of it
a quiet and holy people
who have learned a great secret.
They have found a joy
which is a thousand times better
than any pleasure of our sinful life.
They are despised and persecuted,
but they care not.
They are masters of their souls.
They have overcome the world.
These people, Donatus, are the Christians -
and I am one of them.
Can you imagine the courage it took for him to write these words - I am one of them? And even greater still can you imagine it possible for the early Christians to hold onto their joy when facing the stress of their persecution. At any time they and their entire family (husbands, wives, parents...their children) could be thrown into jail...or worse, the arena.
Still, Paul writes in 1 Thessalonians 1 of them, "You became imitators of us and of the Lord; in spite of severe suffering, you welcomed the message with the joy given by the Holy Spirit. And so you became a model to all believers...your faith in God is known everywhere."
Can this be me? My suffering is not nearly as great as facing the arena. I am facing a too-high mortgage payment, a declining - no, nonexistent reality market, a never ending to-do list, six children each demanding my every moment, disappointment. Can I choose joy amidst all this?
Romans 13:15 says, "May the God of hope fill you with joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit."
Joy comes as I trust in Him by the power of the Holy Spirit.
As I trust.
Trust and the joy will come.
Today, I choose to trust.
Ecclesiastes 3 says "There is a time for everything....He has made everything beautiful in its time."
It is time for us to endure hardship, and I a praying not despite it, but because of it, we will be beautiful today.
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