How I Found Joy in When I Thought I Couldn’t
Sep 18, 2017 2278
Earlier this year I spent a few days in Jerusalem on my way back from running evangelistic meetings in Ukraine. I was going to be in Jerusalem during a time when the Jewish Passover and the Christian Easter coincided, so it was going to be quite an experience! And I got more than I bargained for!
I was there with two friends, one of whom had booked the accommodation at a particular hotel which will remain nameless. He had booked it through one of the major accommodation booking websites online. My friend kept telling me how cheap it was and how centrally located it was, right in the heart of the old city, just opposite the Tower of David. I had been Jerusalem before, so I knew enough to feel some trepidation. And the reviews I read online didn’t reassure me either. But hey! As my friend kept telling me, we had the best location in all of Jerusalem!
Finally, we arrived in Jerusalem. Because of the crowds and the security, we had to haul our luggage for about fifteen minutes to the hotel. When we got there, as we hauled our luggage up the stairs, first impressions weren’t reassuring. The place looked like a run-down dump. But worse was to come.
At reception, the hotel manager told us that he was very sorry but he didn’t have a room for us. My friend protested that he had a confirmed booking, but the manager told us that a coach had arrived from Russia and the owner of the hotel had told him to find room for them all, so now he had nothing left at all. The sun was low, and evening was coming. This was the last thing we needed after a long international trip!
To cut a long story short, after walking to another part of Jerusalem to negotiate with the brother of the owner of the hotel – that’s how it is in that part of the world – the manager of the hotel told us that he would let us sleep in the attic. The owner told us that there were two beds up there, and one of them was already occupied by a Greek Orthodox priest in Jerusalem for Easter. He was being allowed to stay up there as an act of charity. The manager told us that the rest of us could sleep on the floor. So, we went to take a look at this attic!
This wasn’t an attic that was prepared for human habitation. This was a building that probably dated from the late nineteenth or early twentieth century, and it had a roof cavity that was being used as a storage and rubbish area. Spare mattresses and equipment used by the hotel were liberally strewn around. The clothes of probably several generations of people were on the floor. Dust and dirt was everywhere. I saw toilet paper and used facial tissues thrown around. But true enough, there were two beds there, one of which was evidently being occupied.
Seeing the filth on the bed, both of my two friends refused to sleep in it. Lucky me! I got the bed. They got two dirty mattresses on the floor. We had to accept it. We had nowhere else to go, we were exhausted, and finding accommodation in Jerusalem at Passover and Easter wasn’t something we were going to be able to resolve that night.
Don’t let your disappointments overshadow your blessings.
I spent an interesting night that night. I slept with a firm hold on my valuables. The two dozen Russians on the landing below seemed to be up all night, talking and generally making a noisy ruckus. Every time they walked around the floorboards creaked loudly. And I was almost certain that I could hear the rats scurrying about!
My sleeping companion on the other bed was a Father Stephanos, a Russian Orthodox priest from Cyprus who was in Jerusalem for Easter. He slept in his black robe, since he had no other possessions, and snored loudly. However, he did tell me that eventually the noisy Russians made him give up on sleep and he went out to walk around the city in the very early hours of the morning.
I guess that as a privileged westerner I could have been upset, but actually, I wasn’t. As I fell asleep I thought of my Lord and Master. When he arrived to visit the people of Israel, there was no room for him either. He had to make do with a manger. This wasn’t so bad after all.
In the morning, I discovered that at least we hadn’t been put in a tent on the freezing concrete roof of the building. That’s where the hotel manager had obviously accommodated some of his other overflow guests.
This was a wonderful trip to Jerusalem! There was joy all around me, when I stopped to look. Those noisy Russians were just excited to finally see the city of Jerusalem where the Lord had been. I got marvellously lost in the Old City trying to find the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. I discovered a multitude of Biblical sites that I hadn’t found before. I sat and prayed on the southern steps of the temple, where Jesus certainly had certainly walked up many times. I draw closer to my Lord. It was surely worth the interesting night that I spent in the roof cavity with Father Stephanos.
So, don’t let your disappointments overshadow the blessings. Learn to find joy. Remember the words of the Apostle Paul:
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! (Phil 4:4, NIV).
…and yes, for the next day, my friend found us a decent place in which to stay.