“looking off to Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of the faith, who, in view of the joy set before him endured the cross, despising its shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
Hebrews 12:2 (ISV)
I heard of an experiment where mice were placed in a box in utter darkness to see how long they would survive. In the total blackness, they only lasted a day or two, but when a pin prick of light was allowed in, they lasted for many months.
I have often wondered how the Christian Martyrs marched to their death with such bravery. They marched into colliseums filled with lions, they sang while being set on fire at stakes, they were stoned, imprisoned, hung upside down and died with unswerving determination.
I believe they were able to face these things undaunted, not because of some magical quality, but because they knew their pain had meaning. Through the dark place, they saw a pinprick of light. That shard of light helped them to endure the darkness.
Suffering can feel pointless where there is no meaning. No context of why, how, or when this will end, you can become like the disillusioned soldier who has lost sight of what he fights for.
Yet it is in the most impossible darkness where God speaks a powerful word of hope. The creation of the world began with God addressing the ebony darkness with, “Let there be light”.
This is why Paul was able to endure beatings, stoning, rejection, imprisonment, because his eye was fixed on the pinprick of Divine Light. He knew without doubt that there was something on the other side of his suffering. He saw his reward like a winning sprinter who in the middle of the race, knows he is going to win and will receive his medal. All of his training and hardship were possible because his eye was fixed on the prize.
Like Jesus, we too must see “the joy set before” us as light piercing a dark chasm. We do this by learning to open our spiritual eye to God’s light shining in every situation. It is there that we embrace the joy the natural eye cannot perceive and endure whatever comes. We must daily commune with God so that we may be in a place where we see “the joy set before us”.
If we are to shine for the world, we must first be able to see our own light. After all, you can’t give what you don’t have. Perhaps that is one reason we are called the “Children of Light”.