You need two things if you want to be happy in God’s work overseas: a good sense of humor and no sense of smell. – said to Charles Swindoll by a veteran missionary, (Griffith, Leonard. This Is Living, p. 33)
I think this is pretty good advice for all of us: learn to laugh because life at times just plain stinks.
You may think I am being too flippant about tough times—especially if you are presently slogging through one of those rotten seasons. I understand. I have been there and done that too. We all know about those times: some of us are in one, some of us are about to go into one, and some of us are coming out of one.
Does God have anything to say about the things that happen to us? You better believe it! In fact, God speaks directly to it through Paul in the letter he wrote to the Philippian Christians—probably the most joyful and most personal of Paul’s letters to a church. In the midst of this letter full of rejoicing, Paul shares about his own tough times.
Imprisonment? Yes (1:12-14). Being trashed by jealous preachers? Yes (1:15-18). Hard-to-take circumstances like poor health—the possibility of dying? That too (1:20-21). Being stuck in a place you can’t do anything about? Uh-huh (1:22-24).
So, how could he be thankful (1:3), continue to rejoice (1:18), talk about doing everything without complaining (2:14), and be content whatever his circumstances (4:11)? Because he was a man in Christ, absorbed by Christ, sold out to Christ, and authentic in his belief in Christ. He was strengthened by the Christ within him (Galatians 2:20) who trampled the gates of death and hell by His resurrection. I can almost see the smile on his face and hear the laughter in his voice as he says, “Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel” (Philippians 1:12, NIV). Paul writes with the carelessness of one who says, “This is the way things are, and we will get that over with in a hurry and pass on to something really important.”
That’s the spirit I want to have for life. I may be stuck in things I cannot do anything about. I will put them in their proper place, take note of them, and then I will get on with the things that are really important.
We can do that because we live in a community of hope and encouragement (1:3-6). That community is the church. But we have to get our attitudes in line first. “For I fully expect and hope that I will never be ashamed, but that I will continue to be bold for Christ, as I have been in the past. And I trust that my life will bring honor to Christ, whether I live or die.” (1:20).
Amen, and Amen!