Out of the Trials

2 Corinthians 8:2-4, “Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity.  For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability.  Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the saints.”

The math doesn’t add up.  Coming from the severe trial, overflowing joy PLUS extreme poverty EQUALED rich generosity.  Are you following me?  Since when does a severe trial bring overflowing joy?  How often is extreme poverty associated with rich generosity?  Surely Paul was confused when speaking about the Macedonian churches.

Or was he?

The truth of the matter is that joy flows most often when we take a step back from ourselves and notice those around us.  Joy comes from blessing and encouraging others around us, rather than focusing on our own needs.  The Macedonian church had realized this truth in spades.  When life is “all about me” it leaves little room for the joy that emerges through community and service.

I had a horrible week last week.  I was an emotional mess and couldn’t seem to pull it together.  I heard the question that Paul asked the Church of Galatia now asked of me, “What has happened to all of your joy?”  (Galatians 4:15)  My joy had left me in every arena of my life.  In the midst of trials all I could do was look around and feel despair.  Can I tell you what changed my outlook, what has seemingly restored my joy?  It returned the moment I took my eyes off of myself and made my concern those around me.  Rather than wondering what my friends could do for me, I began to seek out what I could do to bless them.  That change of perspective has made all the difference.  The challenges of last week are just as present this week, but I have decided to change the outcome of equation, just like the Macedonians.  It shouldn’t make sense, but it does.  Overflowing joy comes when we seek to share, to serve, and to love others.  Joy comes as we take on the attitude of Christ and love beyond measure.

 “…Love of old vs. unselfishness of today:  Unselfishness carries the suggestion not primarily of securing good things for others, but of going without them ourselves, as if our abstinence and not their happiness was the important point.”  C.S. Lewis – The Weight of Glory