I click open my email and scroll through my new messages.
I’ve received a new email from Voice of the Martyr’s prayer project, icommittopray.com. The prayer needs are always overwhelming:
In Nepal a pastor is beaten for giving out Bibles.
Twenty-nine teenaged schoolboys were killed in an overnight attack at a boarding school in Nigeria.
A Moroccan woman dropped her daughter off at school, but then was attacked outside of it by three Muslim women who discovered she was a Christian.
I can’t help but wonder: if faced with the persecution that other Christians around the world are faced with, would I still be a Christian?
I wonder: how do they endure?
The physical agony began in Gethsemane as Jesus begged for the experience of God’s wrath to be removed while his sweat pooled like drops of blood on the ground.
The agony extended to his beating, the mockery, the crown of thorns, the long walk down the Via Dolorosa, and the slice of Roman nails into his hands and feet. It continued when Christ cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
Many throughout history have been crucified, but Jesus purposed his own crucifixion.
I wonder: why did he endure?
Perhaps Hebrews 12:1-2 gives me a clue:
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”
Joy is defined as the emotion, source or expression of “great delight or happiness caused by something exceptionally good or satisfying.” It can also be “something or someone greatly valued or appreciated.”
So what joy did Christ have his eyes on that enabled him to endure the cross?
Surprisingly, Jesus had multiple reasons to find joy in going through with being crucified, buried, and resurrected. First, he had the joy of being once again reunited with God the Father in Heaven. Second, he had the joy of triumphing over sin. Third, he had the joy of securing our salvation and being in relationship with those of us that are his children.
And his joy becomes our joy.
Because of Christ’s work on the cross, at last we have direct access to the Father. No more bloody lambs and goats to be sacrificed. No more priests and prophets. No more heavy veil to keep us out of the holy of holies.
We now have the joy of a one-to-one relationship with Jesus. That joy isn’t to just be savored in Heaven when every tear is wiped away. It can be savored now.
“If Jesus had not willingly died, neither he nor we could be forever glad. He would have been disobedient. We would have perished in our sins. His joy and ours were acquired at the cross. Now we follow him in the path of love.” John Piper, The Passion of Jesus Christ.
Maybe that’s how we endure. We endure with joy.
Joy, wrote G. K. Chesterton in Orthodoxy, “is the gigantic secret of the Christian.”
Perhaps this is the secret that persecuted Christians cherish in their hearts. When I read testimonies of their faith and perseverance I am always struck with their sense of unconquerable joy. Salvation joy can never be taken away no matter what the circumstance.
Now I know the secret. I can do more than endure. As I abide in Christ’s love for me this Easter, demonstrated by his death and resurrection, I can live a life full of salvation joy.
“With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.” Isaiah 12:3
Danielle Ayers Jones has been a contributing writer for the online magazine, Ungrind, and has written for Thriving Family, Clubhouse, Jr., Radiant, and Relevant. She also combines her love of writing and photography on her blog, www.danielleayersjones.com. It’s a space where she seeks to find beauty in everyday places, joy in hardship, and encouragement in unexpected places. Danielle currently lives in Maryland with her husband and three children. You can follow her on Twitter @daniajones.