One of life’s biggest challenges is how we face tough circumstances and disappointments. An Indian proverb says that “you don’t know what’s in the jar until it’s bumped.”
When sickness, businesses reversals, separation, death or sadness bumps into our normally peaceful existence, our real strength is both revealed and tested.
Just over 200 years ago, in the House of Commons, the decisive vote against slave trading was won. Wilberforce was 47 years old. He continued for the next 26 years to secure the emancipation of slaves.
Though from a wealthy and privileged background he was not immune from sickness or sadness and this revealed where his strength really lay.
Following a long battle with colitis he became addicted to its then cure, opium. Later in life, as pictures of him show, he had a severe curvature of the spine. Yet those who observed and knew him could not but comment about his deep joy and care for others. James Stephen said that “his presence was as fatal to dullness as to immorality. His mirth was as irresistible as the first laughter of childhood.”
The source of his mirth and brightness was his daily habit of cultivating happiness through his relationship with Jesus. This was nourished by reading the Bible every morning along with prayer. He was neither self-righteous since he relied upon Christ’s righteousness nor self-reliant since he prayed to his Heavenly Father for strength.
The inner strength that enabled him to joyfully, not stoically, press on as a husband, as a father and as a parliamentarian against opposition and his own infirmities came from his personal relationship with God.
All the evidence shows that Wilberforce was a joy to be around because whenever he was ‘bumped’ the source of his life, the Lord Jesus Christ, would be revealed. I cannot help but wonder if my joy in life because of my relationship with Jesus is as evident when things around get tough?