Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. James 1:2-3
Count is all joy? Who considers suffering joy? I have heard this question posed to me over the years. How do I count this trial all joy? It is difficult to see trials as joyful.
I appreciate the perspective of Sam Allberry: “He is not telling us so much how to feel as how to think.”[i] We tend to think of Joy as a feeling and from that viewpoint, we read this as if we should feel joyful about our trials. Well, when suffering happens, joy is not natural nor can we conjure it up.
James is not suggesting that we have joy about the trials themselves but rather because of what God is up to in the process of our trials. Allberry defines suffering as “the removal of something that we want to have- health, a relationship, financial security, etc.”[ii] Further he says, “In order to be joyful, we need to end the struggle.”[iii]
What struggle? We need to end the trial? If only we could. No, the struggle is that we are losing or already have lost something we greatly value and we wrestle or struggle in our spirits with the loss.
What James is telling us is that there is something even greater, something to value even more. Growth. Growth in Christ-likeness. Spiritual maturity. Again quoting Allberry, “If we stop and think about it, this is actually what we most long for as Christians (or at least what we should most long for): to become more whole in Christ; to know him more fully and intimately. And it is trials that give us this opportunity to mature in our faith. In fact, we can’t get there without trials.”[iv]
So it’s not joy ABOUT the trial but joy IN the trial because we can be assured God sees us and is fully engaged with us in the process. He is up to something transformative in us in the deeper parts of our hearts. Does it hurt? Yes. No doubt. But even beyond maturity, is an eternal reality: Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. James 1:12
I can’t help but think of the example Jesus gives us. …looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:2 (underlining mine)
By God’s grace and Christ’s life in us, we can cast our vision beyond the immediate trial to the glory that lies beyond, as we mature in the faith and ultimately receive the crown of life. This is a supernatural work of God IN us, as is the joy only He can give in our journey through trials.
[i] Sam Allberry. James: Genuine Faith. 2015.
Written by Diane Hunt: Diane Hunt serves on the board of America’s Keswick and is the Executive Director & CEO of Changed Choices, a Christian non-profit in North Carolina. She is also a biblical counselor and women’s event speaker. For more information about having Diane speak at your next event please contact her at email@example.com.
Think About This: “Rebellious people do not want to rest in God’s work or celebrate His creation. Like our first parents, we each want to be our own god. We want to rest in our own works and celebrate our own accomplishments”. – Bruce A. Ray