Joy Comes through Walking with Jesus — Even in Suffering
When I think about Chinese Christians and joy, it feels like this is an area where they already have superhuman strength. The examples of how Chinese believers exemplify joy come to mind quickly: a sister who is joyfully returning to China, even though she knows she will personally face scrutiny, pressure, and very likely severe consequences for her faith. But the main emotion I’ve heard her express is joy at the honor of serving and fellowshiping with others in China in this crucial time. She is concerned about what might happen, but she is so joyful to become closer to God by going home to share in the hardships and joys, she hardly seems worried.
She is alight with excitement for what God will do and how she will get to be a part of it.
This spring, we released a podcast about a Chinese woman who went to jail for her faith, and experienced the smile and blessing of God in a hellacious place. For her, jail was terrible — but it was also full of joy, because that was where God showed her his presence and power.
Her story is one of beauty, but it’s not that unusual. My coworker Ryan has shared about how moved he is to see picture after picture of Chinese Christians released from jail, and greeted by others in their church with flowers, hugs, and joyful smiles, looking as if they had just won a major prize.
We Can Share Their Joys and Troubles
So what does it even mean to pray for joy for a people who already walk in it to this extent? I’m speechless and out of my depth.
And yet. Of course, this is not the whole story. Of course, every believer, even persecuted “super Christians,” will at some point walk through their own dark night of the soul. I often feel as though I’m selling my Chinese brothers and sisters short by talking about the challenges they face, very real though the struggles are, because more important than their victories or struggles is their very human condition. They sin, and fail, and struggle, and rejoice — just like me, just like Christians in the 1400s, just like believers in the Bible. We are all, most of all, humans in need of Christ.
I truly believe God is doing an amazing, world-changing work in China in our time. I want these stories of faithfulness and perseverance and deep peace and joy to be shared.
I am deeply encouraged by the faithfulness of Chinese believers. I truly believe God is doing an amazing, world-changing work in China in our time. I want these stories of faithfulness and perseverance and deep peace and joy to be shared.
But I also just want to remember that these brothers and sisters are not superheroes or victims. They are followers of Jesus. In Philippians 4, Paul says to “rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.” He does not list his troubles, but says he is content even in bad times. Then, later in the same chapter, he says, “Yet it was kind of you to share my trouble.” I hope, through prayer, we can share the struggles — and joys — of our body members in China.
God’s grace is sufficient; he will give them what they need. God does not command us to always be happy or lighthearted, but he does tell us to be filled with joy. I am praying that Chinese believers will obey this command, and that God will lead them to walk in his paths of joy and delight — in good times, bad times, and normal, average, mundane days.
E.F. Gregory is a mom of three. She lives in the San Gabriel Valley on the border of East Los Angeles, where her husband is a P.C.A. church planter.
FOR PRAYER AND REFLECTION
Pray for Chinese Christians to experience the joy of the Lord as their strength.