“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4, NIV 2011).
Today our pastor shared with us a story from an old Billy Graham Crusade he was watching this weekend. Dr. Graham had chosen for personal testimony a Chinese man who had been persecuted for his faith. This man described how he had been kept in a prison so crowded that he could not even find room to sit, all day, all night.
The greatest blessing he received as a prisoner was planned as a punishment to degrade him. He was assigned regular latrine duty.
He described the overwhelming nausea of first opening the door to the prison latrine and then the initial disgust of spending his day knee deep in human waste, shoveling.
But very soon the disgust wore off. He realized that he was all alone and could speak or sing as he wanted. He was able to talk to God freely all day. He was able to sing.
“Do you want to know what I sang,” he asked the Crusade attendees in his halting English.
So he sang,
I come to the garden alone
While the dew is still on the roses
And the voice I hear falling on my ear
The Son of God discloses.
And He walks with me, and He talks with me,
And He tells me I am His own;
And the joy we share as we tarry there,
None other has ever known.
Those of us who are not gastroenterologists dislike the touch and smell of human waste. I even gag at the sight of my granddaughter’s poopy diapers.
I cannot imagine being knee deep all day and not giving up.
We are not a persecuted people in the United States, but we do all have our “stuff” that we stand knee deep in and rarely do we sing while we are shoveling.
We rarely sing because we think we have to be happy about the mess we are in if we are to find joy in our predicament.
We miss the point of this Chinese Christian’s testimony. It is not what you are in but who is in it with you that brings the song. Christians should not sing for joy because we are shoveling feces or because of broken marriages, failing practices, malpractice suits, illness in those we love or lost children.
But in all of these horrible circumstances we are not alone—and the One we are with, the Lord Himself, will bring the song, if we choose to focus on Him instead of the mess.
In every circumstance of life, help me to focus on you.