When you suffer, do you look to God as your source of joy.
It is so easy for you to find joy in the things of this world and use those for your encouragement during times of suffering.
But God’s holiness, his moral perfection in particular, should be your chief joy.
The great theologian Jonathan Edwards says in his book on the ‘Religious Affections’ that:
‘A true love to God must begin with a delight in his holiness, and not with a delight in any other attribute; for no other attribute is truly lovely without this, and no otherwise than as (according to our way of conceiving God) it derives its loveliness from this.’
God has many attributes: power, love, mercy, grace. But none of them are beautiful attributes unless he is holy – if God is not just, then these attributes become unbalanced and dirty.
So do you delight in God’s holiness, particularly when you suffer?
Jonathan Edwards teaches us that what you delight in can help you discern whether you are a true Christian or not:
“And this is indeed the very main difference between the joy of the hypocrite, and the joy of the true saint. The former rejoices in himself; self is the first foundation of his joy: the latter rejoices in God. The hypocrite has his mind pleased and delighted, in the first place, with his own privilege, and happiness to which he supposes he has attained, or shall attain. True saints have their minds, in the first place, inexpressibly pleased and delighted with the sweet ideas of the glorious and amiable nature of the things of God. This is the spring of all their delights, and the cream of all their pleasures; it is the joy of their joy. This sweet and ravishing entertainment they have in viewing the beautiful and delightful nature of divine things, is the foundation of the joy they have afterward in the consideration of their being theirs. But the dependence of the affections of hypocrites is in a contrary order: they first rejoice and are elevated, that they are the favorites of God; and then, on that ground, he seems in a sort lovely to them.”
Edwards teaching is Biblical. The Psalms, in particular, give wonderful examples of those who delight in God, particularly his holiness in his Word: “The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul. The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy, making wise the simple. The precepts of the LORD are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the LORD are radiant, giving light to the eyes. The fear of the LORD is pure, enduring forever. The ordinances of the LORD are sure and altogether righteous. They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the comb. By them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward” (Psalm 19:7-11).
Can you affirm the words of the Psalmist to God in prayer right now?
When you struggle with suffering, is it because you have delighted in things other than God’s holiness and they are now being stripped away? Are you depressed because your source of joy is gone?
I encourage you, find joy, even in your suffering, by examining God’s holiness.