受苦时有可能在基督里喜乐吗?Is It Possible to Be Happy in Christ Despite Suffering

 

神从没保证基督徒的生活会一帆风顺或者更容易。事实上,他应许的恰恰相反:“凡立志在基督耶稣里敬虔度日的,也都要受逼迫。”(提摩太后书3:12)。我们面临巨大困难时不该觉得惊讶。(见彼得前书4:12)

 

所有哀悼的诗篇,耶利米哀歌以及很多其他经文都揭示了现实和悲伤在基督徒生命中的重要性。没有任何对待喜乐和幸福的态度能够否认或削弱这些经文。

 

事实上,真正的符合圣经的世界观和对喜乐和幸福的正宗教导都完全承认并接受在当前时代受苦的现实。

 

圣经经文中描述的幸福和快乐是及其丰富的,因为它既不否认现实也不伪装,而是可以在极大的困难中经历的。基督的追随者从不宣讲建立在美好愿望之上的脆弱的幸福。相反,我们幸福的基础在苦难中仍是真实的——有时反而变得更清楚。

 

喜乐植根于我们的神,而不是我们的处境

你们要靠主常常喜乐(见腓利比书4:4)有时可能似乎不太现实。但我们必须牢记这个喜乐不是围绕着变化的处境而是围绕着不变的现实——神本身,和他的爱子,为我们死去又复活的主耶稣。

 

一方面,我们可能不认为圣经让我们为国家的现状、我们的文化走向、我们配偶的态度、孩子的困难、教会的冲突、失业和不佳的健康状况而喜乐。另一方面,我们被要求“凡事要奉我们主耶稣基督的名,常常感谢父神”(以弗所书 5:20)与此类似,有经文告诉我们要“凡事谢恩,因为这是神在基督耶稣里向你们所定的旨意。”(帖撒罗尼迦5:18)。

 

我不认为这意味着我们应该为邪恶本身喜乐,因为神恨恶邪恶(撒迦利亚书8:17;箴言6:16-19)并要求我们也恨恶它(诗篇97:10;箴言8:13;罗马书12:9)。但我认为这意味着我们应该相信罗马书8:28,它告诉我们神会使万事互相效力让我们受益,包括发生在我们身上的邪恶的事。

 

相信这点使我们能够在困难甚至邪恶的境况中感谢神,知道在他主权的恩典下,他正通过这些事情在我们身上完成他伟大而永恒的目的。

 

我们被要求在主里面喜乐并在面临困境时“都要以为大喜乐”(雅各书1:2)。通过在受苦时重复快乐和感恩的理由而选择喜乐,肯定了我们对神的信心。我们靠信心前行,相信神已经做的、正在做的和将要做的都将会使现在困扰我们的事情有一个好的结局。

 

这样的回应需要我们相信神慈爱的看管我们的挑战。将苦难看作是随机的,或者陷于造成苦难的别人的错误选择而不能自拔,都会剥夺我们的快乐。对神软弱、渺小或错误的看法总会毒害我们知足的源泉。

 

对神的属性的认识越多,我们就会越快乐。

 

我们有一位至高无上的慈爱上帝。

对神的属性认识的越深刻,在困难时期我们的力量、视角和快乐的储备就越深。我们所相信的这位神是谁?他到底是什么样子的?

 

过去两年在我们与南希(Nanci)的癌症抗争的过程中,南希和我花时间默想上帝的属性,重读和聆听了一些有声书籍,如托泽(A·W·Tozer)的《对圣洁的认识》、帕克(J. I. Packer)的《认识神》以及杰瑞·布里奇斯(Jerry Bridges)的《信靠神》。在我们沉思神的圣洁、恩典、公义、怜悯以及圣经向我们启示的他属性的每一个方面时,我们的心因赞美而振奋。

 

圣经告诉我们有一位神,他爱我们,他高过整个宇宙,包括所有的邪恶。如果不相信这位慈爱上帝的绝对主权,我们就无法快乐也无法保持快乐。基督徒世界观的美妙之处在于,我们受鼓舞采取主动控制在自己能力范围之内的事情,同时也知道,我们所不能控制的生活的绝大部分在神的掌控之下。

 

圣经告诉我们,“我们的神在天上,都随自己的意旨行事。”(诗篇115:3)。它向我们保证“人心筹算自己的道路,惟耶和华指引他的脚步。”(箴言16:9)。因为神永远有智慧、良善和快乐,而我们不是这样,所以让神而不是我们自己掌权,我们的境遇要好的多。

 

感恩是关键

在苦难中提升幸福感的一种可靠方法就是选择感恩。

 

在任何环境中,无论多困难,我们都可以感谢神并经历他的喜乐。以弗所书5:18-20说,“乃要被圣灵充满,当用诗章、颂词、灵歌彼此对说,口唱心和地赞美主。凡事要奉我们主耶稣基督的名,常常感谢父神。”精神上交由神掌控与凡事感恩是分不开的。

 

当南希和我不得不取消一个我们期待已久的旅行时,我们开始考虑利用当时拥有的时间可以做的所有有意义的事情。然后我们就开始行动,并为这些事情兴奋。没有沉浸在为失去的沮丧中,我们在自己所得到的事情上找到了快乐。

 

无论我们发现自己有理由庆祝还是哀悼,从没有一个时刻我们不应该表达对神的感恩。诗篇140:13宣称,“义人必要称赞你的名,正直人必住在你面前。”

 

尽管有时“让自己快乐”会有困难,选择感恩却从不困难,而感恩总是能激发快乐。无论我们的处境多么艰难,感恩带来的快乐总是触手可及。

 

我们的苦难会终结

尽管我们生命中最严重的苦难还在前面,我们慈爱的神应许我们那只会是很短的一段时间。而他还应许了更多——一个可以回报我们当前苦难的未来:

 

现在的苦楚若比起将来要显于我们的荣耀,就不足介意了。(罗马书8:18)

 

我们这至暂至轻的苦楚,要为我们成就极重无比永远的荣耀。(哥林多后书4:17)

 

鉴于我们暂时的麻烦为我们赢得了永恒的荣耀,保罗给出了以下永恒视角的经文:“我们不是顾念所见的,乃是顾念所不见的。因为所见的是暂时的,所不见的是永远的。”(哥林多后书4:18)这段经文总是能够让我头脑清醒,这也是为什么我将我们的组织命名为“永恒视角事工”。

 

我们被应许,不仅当前的苦难会结束,并且即使在当前它也有一个超越此生的隐藏目的,这应许何等美好!我们越是将眼光专注于当前看不到之处,就越能体验到保证和安慰以及它们所带来的不断增加的快乐。这就是为什么苏格兰传道者邓肯·马西森(Duncan Matheson)(1824-1869)要这样祷告,“神啊,请将永恒印到我的眼球中。”

 

作为复活之人在新天新地中的一个普通的日子,都会远远好过我们在这个世界中所经历的最好的一天。有一天,我们会看到我们在这受咒诅的世上所经历的最坏的一天没有被浪费,而是在永恒中有积极的影响。

 


 

Is It Possible to Be Happy in Christ Despite Suffering

By Randy Alcorn

November 25, 2019

God never guarantees that the Christian life will be smooth or easy. In fact, he promises the opposite: “All who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution” (2 Timothy 3:12, NKJV). We’re not to be surprised when we face great difficulties (see 1 Peter 4:12).

All the psalms of lament, the book of Lamentations, and many other Scripture passages reveal the importance of realism and sorrow in the Christian life. No treatment of joy and happiness should deny or minimize such texts.

Indeed, a truly biblical worldview and an authentic doctrine of joy and happiness fully recognize and embrace the realities of suffering in this present age.

The happiness described in Scripture is all the richer because it doesn’t involve denial or pretense and can be experienced amid severe difficulty. Christ-followers don’t preach the flimsy kind of happiness that’s built on wishful thinking. Instead, our basis for happiness remains true—and sometimes becomes clearer—in suffering.

Rejoicing Is Rooted in Our God, Not Our Circumstances

Rejoicing always in the Lord (see Philippians 4:4) may seem unrealistic at times. But we must remember that this rejoicing is centered not in a passing circumstance but in a constant reality—God Himself, and His Son, Jesus, who died for us and rose again.

On the one hand, we might suppose that Scripture doesn’t command us to rejoice in our nation’s condition, our culture’s trajectory, our spouse’s attitude, our child’s struggle, our church’s conflicts, our job loss, or our poor health. On the other hand, we’re told to “always [give] thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 5:20, NIV). Likewise, Scripture tells us to “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:18, NIV).

I don’t think this means that we are to rejoice in evil, per se, since God hates evil (Zechariah 8:17Proverbs 6:16-19) and commands us to hate it (Psalm 97:10Proverbs 8:13Romans 12:9). I do think it means that we should believe Romans 8:28, which tells us God will work all things together for our good, including evil things that happen to us.

Believing this frees us to thank God in the middle of difficult and even evil circumstances, knowing that in His sovereign grace, He is accomplishing great, eternal purposes in us through these things.

We’re told to rejoice in the Lord and to “consider it all joy” when we face hardship (James 1:2, NASB). Choosing to rejoice, by rehearsing reasons to be happy and grateful while suffering, affirms trust in God. We walk by faith, believing in what God has done, is doing, and will do to bring a good end to all that troubles us.

This response requires faith that God lovingly superintends our challenges. Viewing our sufferings as random or obsessing over someone else’s bad choices that caused our sufferings robs us of happiness. A weak, small, or faulty view of God always poisons the well of our contentment.

The more we grow in our understanding of God’s attributes, the happier we become.

We Have a Sovereign and Loving God

The deeper our knowledge of God’s character, the deeper our reservoir of strength, perspective, and happiness in hard times. Who is this God we are to trust? What is He really like?

As we have dealt with her cancer over the past two years, Nanci and I have spent time meditating on the attributes of God, rereading and listening to audiobooks such as The Knowledge of the Holy by A. W. Tozer and Knowing God by J. I. Packer and Trusting God by Jerry Bridges. Our hearts are lifted in praise as we contemplate His holiness, grace, justice, mercy, and every facet of His being revealed to us in Scripture.

Scripture teaches that we have a God who loves us and is sovereign over the universe, including all evil. We can’t be happy, and remain happy, without believing in the sovereignty of a loving God. The beauty of the Christian worldview is that while we’re encouraged to take initiative and control what’s within our power, we also know that the enormous part of life we can’t control is under God’s governance.

Scripture tells us, “Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases” (Psalm 115:3). It assures us, “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps” (Proverbs 16:9). And since God is eternally wise and good and happy, and we’re not, we’re far better off with Him, not us, in control.

Gratitude Is Central

One surefire way to raise our level of happiness in times of suffering is choosing to be thankful.

In every circumstance, no matter how difficult, we can give thanks to God and experience his joy. Ephesians 5:18-20 says, “Be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Being Spirit controlled is inseparable from giving thanks in everything.

When Nanci and I had to cancel a trip we were really looking forward to, we began to contemplate all the good things that we could do with the time we now had. Then we started doing those good things and got excited about them. Instead of clinging to unhappiness for something we lost, we found happiness in something we gained.

Whether we find ourselves having reason to celebrate or to mourn, there’s never a time not to express our gratitude to God. Psalm 140:13 declares, “Surely the righteous shall give thanks to your name.”

While it may seem hard to “make ourselves happy,” it’s not hard to choose to give thanks, which in turn always kindles happiness. No matter how difficult our circumstances, the happiness thanksgiving generates is always within our reach.

Our Suffering Will End

Even if the worst suffering of our lives still lies ahead of us, our loving God assures us it will be for only a short time. But He promises far more—a future payoff for our present sufferings:

Our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. (Romans 8:18, NIV)

Our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. (2 Corinthians 4:17, NIV)

In light of that eternal glory being achieved for us by our momentary troubles, Paul offers the following words of eternal perspective: “We fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:18, NIV). This verse has always cleared my head, and that’s why I named our organization Eternal Perspective Ministries.

How wonderful to be promised not only that our present sufferings will end but also that even now they have a hidden purpose that will forever outlast this life! The more we fix our eyes on what’s presently unseen, the more we can experience reassurance and comfort and the increase in happiness they inevitably bring. That’s why Scottish evangelist Duncan Matheson (1824–1869) prayed, “Lord, stamp eternity upon my eyeballs.”

A normal day as resurrected people on the New Earth will be far better than the best day we’ve ever experienced here. And we will one day see our worst day on Earth under the Curse as not having been wasted but as making a positive and eternal difference.

This article is excerpted from Randy’s book Does God Want Us to Be Happy? It offers a collection of short, easy readings on one of life’s biggest questions: in a world full of brokenness, is happiness a worthy pursuit for Christians? This book answers the question with a different approach and contains some new material. It's perfect for those who would like to consider the central question in Happiness in a shorter form.

 Photo credit Lucas Ludwig on Unsplash

Randy Alcorn (@randyalcorn) is the author of fifty-some books and the founder and director of Eternal Perspective Ministries