Overflowing Joy

Laurie Buffo, Volunteer Writer, South Barrington | February 23, 2024

And now, brothers and sisters, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the Lord’s people.
2 Corinthians 8:1-4

Today is the first of six devotionals on passages from chapters eight and nine in 2 Corinthians. In these chapters, Paul encourages the Corinthians to follow through on their previous commitment to collect funds for the believers in Jerusalem who were suffering persecution for their faith. Paul writes persuasively on generosity, so these are good chapters for us to study.

Paul opens with the excellent example set by the believers in Macedonia. Despite enduring great hardship, they gave “beyond their ability.” What would motivate such altruism? It sounds supernatural, and it is. The Macedonian churches’ extreme generosity was evidence of God’s grace working in them through the Holy Spirit. It welled up in them like a fountain overflowing with joy.  

Grace and affliction can work together to bring us closer to God. When we experience pressure from all sides, it squeezes out our feelings of self-sufficiency and control. We can choose how to fill the void. We can allow God’s grace to pour in or steep ourselves in bitterness and self-absorption. When we recognize God is truly with us and for us, it can bring pain-defying joy and develop resiliency.

Early in my faith journey, I went through a time of intense sorrow, during which I experienced a joy like the joy described in today’s passage. It was not a confetti-throwing-everything-is-awesome feeling. It was more a sense of blissful knowing. It was a connection to God’s power and love so deep it felt possible to overcome anything. Since then, I often slip back into self-sufficiency, and my fear of suffering returns. I never want to endure that level of pain again, but I can ease my anxiety if I remember heartbreak can open me to deep communion with God.

Romans 8:28 is a favorite verse in hard times, “… in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” We often think of this in terms of our personal good. We neglect to see how God uses suffering for the collective good. The final factors that influenced the generosity of the Macedonian churches were empathy and compassion. The Macedonian churches experienced persecution and poverty just as the Jerusalem churches did. It created a bond within the family of God. When one church suffered, it was as though all the churches suffered. So, they joyfully sent relief.

There is more power in a group than when we stand alone. We help others, and they help us. When we see the wisdom of supporting each other, we understand why the Macedonian churches considered it a privilege to give generously.

Next Steps

How willing are you to give and accept help? Do you draw closer to Jesus in hard times or when everything is going well? Do you consider it a privilege to give to God’s work?