Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing 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 (Hebrews 12:1-3).
Recently, I have been perplexed by the above verses. There are times when life makes no sense. It seems like just as we come up for air, another wave threatens to overtake us and destroy us. How can we keep going in the midst of incredible strife? How do we move from mere survival to truly living in the midst of excruciating circumstances?
I believe the author of Hebrews gives insight in how to endure life’s “toils and snares.” The Word tells us, “For the joy set before him, he endured the cross.” At first glance it appears as though the author is suggesting that Jesus was joyful as he faced crucifixion. This seems incredulous! Anyone who has seen the Passion of the Christ has an idea of the pain and suffering that Jesus’ endured.
The joy set before him was the knowledge that he would soon be seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Knowing he was going to be reunited with the Father brought joy and that joy enabled him to endure the shame and scorn that came with his crucifixion. He was not overjoyed at his circumstances, but he found joy in knowing that after the suffering would come perfect joy.
Think of a mother in labor — she endures the pain for the joy that the newborn child will bring. The author of Hebrews teaches us that we can endure whatever hardships we might face in this life because as believers we will one day experience the joy of being united with the Father in heaven. This joy gives us hope in times of grief, anguish, and torment. While our circumstances on earth may not be all that we’d hoped for, the promise of heaven will be more than we could ever hope for or imagine.
How can we keep going when it seems as though life keeps knocking us down? We keep our eyes on the joy set before us. We fix our eyes on Jesus, remember those who have gone before us, and we keep moving forward…