The Power of Joy

by Nate McNeil

Over the next several months our newsletter will be written by one of our elder candidates as a way for him to develop his ministry to the church.

One thing you have to be ready for each year when you live in Alaska is six solid months of winter. And this is not your average, ordinary winter. It feels forever dark, hopelessly long, and without a limit to the cold. In ‘peak season,’ the daylight dips down to about five hours a day, and I wouldn’t say these are bright hours. The sun just kinda peeks up over the mountains, sparkles off of the ice and snow for a few hours and then disappears again. When I was going to college in Fairbanks, which sits near the middle of the state, it would regularly be twenty degrees below zero at night, and then warm up to zero during the day. Anything above zero in January felt like a heat wave. I still have nightmares about having to live in Fairbanks again.

Then there are the summers. Alaskan summers are amazing, period. Long days; between 60 and 70 degrees most days; green, fresh and full of life. The beginning of July is when most people have completely forgotten about the 6 months of misery they had to endure as they stay up until all hours of the night taking in the seemingly endless daylight and the beauty that it reveals.

Alaskans live for the summer.

Early in my Christian life I learned that walking with Christ is not easy. At least, it hasn’t been for me. I learned that prayer and study are much harder to make time for than they should be and I found myself often making resolutions that I was going to get up at 6:00 am so that I could have a full hour to dig into the Bible and work through my prayer list. I tried reading plans, journals, various Bible translations, devotional materials, etc…

Then the dark time would come, and crying out to God became a normal thing. I needed Him and knew that in and of myself I had nothing that was going to get me through.

Then, He comes. Breaking through the darkness and bursting the bonds apart, He reveals Himself as the God of the universe, the Lover of our souls, the Deliverer and Redeemer... the Rescuer. It’s in these times that we forget, or at least see past, the darkness we were in. The power and love of God is so much bigger than we could have imagined. And we realize we were never alone, and God was never without a plan.

It is the joy that these encounters with Jesus produce that empowers us to endure the dark and cold seasons of the Christian life.

It was for the hope of joy that Christ endured the darkness of the cross. Hebrews 12 says,

For the joy set before him [Jesus] 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.

When the sun wanes and the crisp fall air begins to drive you inside, remember the goodness and endurance of our Rescuer. It may just make it a little easier to work through your prayer list at 6:00 am.

Naomi Winebrenner