You've heard of an oxymoron, haven't you? According to the online dictionary, an oxymoron is "a figure of speech in which apparently contradictory terms appear in conjunction." A few examples are as follows: deafening silence, jumbo shrimp, living dead, great depression, virtual reality and original copy. These are phrases we hear and use frequently, yet they hold an apparent contradiction.
Second Corinthians 8:2 seems to also put forth an oxymoron. It says, "in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy. . . abounded." Say what? In a great time of celebration, sure, I can understand joy reaching new heights. But in the midst of a great trial of affliction? That's another story altogether.
Let's break this down. First, we know that these churches were undergoing affliction and persecution. They were suffering for their faith. Life was certainly no bed of roses. Second we know that they had abundant joy. Plentiful. Ample. Lavish. Generous. More than enough. That's a lot of joy, especially in the midst of their circumstances. But notice, Paul goes on to say that their abundant joy abounded. As if it wasn't great enough, it became even more available and present in their lives.
We know the Bible is true and that it contains no errors, so the question we are left with is this: How can one have abundant, over-abounding joy in the midst of great trials and affliction? How is this possible? Is it even possible for us today?
Yes, it is possible. Not easy, but possible. How? Well, that's a process in and of itself. It begins by distinguishing between happiness and joy. Remember, happiness depends on happenings, but joy for the Christian is constant because Jesus is our joy, and He never leaves us.
Next, we must turn our focus from our problems to Jesus, the source of our joy. As long as we're staring at our giants, we'll be anxious and stressed. When we're trying to figure out how to cross our Red Sea, we're overwhelmed and confused. When we try to bring down the walls preventing us from reaching our dreams, we're overcome with defeat and discouragement. But when we look to Jesus and allow Him to work in our lives, we feel overjoyed and at peace.
Last but by no means least, we must surrender complete control to God and be willing to accept whatever He may bring. Trial and affliction, peace and contentment -- whatever He desires. Only when our desires line up with His will we find that true abounding joy that we so long for. The joy is within us, but accessing it requires total surrender of our wants and wills. It means saying, "For better or worse, Lord, I know that Your will is perfect and that You have a plan, even though I may not understand it. I'm joyful because You have chosen to use me and my life for Your great purpose. I'm joyful because I know I'm resting safe and secure in Your hand and that nothing can touch me except You allow it. I'm joyful because I understand that You have a purpose for my life and that it is for both my good and Your glory. I'm joyful because I know that no matter what I face today, You will never leave me nor forsake me. I'm Yours, Lord. Use me as You see fit."
Is your joy abounding today? If not, why not? It's something worth thinking about.
Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost. - Romans 15:13