I love how many of my Rwandan family members are able to maintain their joy in the midst of very difficult circumstances. They prove the power of a familiar acronym for J.O.Y. – Jesus, Others, You.
I recently discussed joy with Matt Cooper, a friend of mind, and a Hope Angel for two of our students. I picked up Matt from the Kigali airport for his first visit to Africa in 2018. I remember driving through the Remera roundabout in the middle of an afternoon traffic jam a few minutes after Matt arrived. His head was about to explode with sensory overload, but the thing that stood out to him the most was the joy of Rwandans. “I loved seeing the joy that people had just because they were alive. It was obvious that most people I met loved God and put their faith and life in His hands.”
The Apostle Paul suffered much in this life and was eventually beheaded. In Acts 20:24, he wrote, “But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.”
Joy is one of the most surprising themes we witness when we visit with Rwandans who have suffered so much. God’s grace is prominently displayed in many of these believers’ lives.
As Rwandan believers smile, confidence, determination and eternal perspective shine through their eyes. Their joy is not shaken. In fact, I would argue that their joy is deeper because of their intimacy with Jesus through the harrowing ordeals they have experienced.
Are you struggling with a loss of joy this season? Joy eludes us when we focus on circumstances and challenges, instead of on the Miracle Maker.
Scripture dares us to fix “our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart” (Hebrew 12:2-3).
Remember the formula for joy: Jesus, Others, You.