To those struggling to find joy in the midst of affliction.
Count It All Joy
“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:2-4).
In the first imperative of his letter, James encourages us to have joy in the midst of trials. Recently I have been wrestling with why this seems so impossible for me and I think I figured it out.
Deep down I don’t think that I’m supposed to go through trials.
Peter’s words are a very helpful reminder to me here: “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you” (1 Peter 4:12).
It almost never fails though. As soon as I am in the midst of a trial, I have a hard time seeing how any good can come out of it. I just want to be done with it. I even question why God would allow me to go through it. But this shows that I am falling into the trap that Peter warns us against!
James also tells us that the trials we experience are going to be “of various kinds.” They are going to look different for each person. But no matter what the trial is, we can still have joy in the midst of it.
How is this done? According to this passage, it is all about perspective. We must focus on the outcomes of trials: steadfastness and completion.
Do we want our confidence in God to be unshakable no matter what that may cost us? Do we want to be mature and grounded, even if we have to experience great pain? Only when we are able to answer “Yes” to these questions can we begin to have joy in the hardest of times.
Call to Motion
So how do we apply this to our lives? We must first change our perspective. We need to expect trials to come and acknowledge them when they do. Then we can wrestle with God about the purpose of the trial and discern what God might be producing in us as a result. When you are in such a trial, ask God questions such as:
“What are you trying to teach me through this?”
“How does this reveal what I am putting my trust in?”
“How can this be used to strengthen my faith?”
After wrestling with God, the next step is to wrestle in this with someone else. Find someone you trust and talk to them about it. Seek out those who have gone through what you are experiencing and ask them how God pulled them through it. Tell them how you are viewing God in the midst of your trial. Be honest.
Trials are the great revealers. They show us what is going on deep down in our hearts. My own trials have shown me how shallow my faith really is at times. Thankfully, as God reveals those areas to us, we can repent and receive His abundant mercy.
Right now my wife and I are having a difficult time buying a house. We have looked at several houses over a period of several months. We found a perfect home, and even got our offer accepted in an almost miraculous fashion. We took this as a sign that God was working, but then the house fell through unexpectedly. We fell into the trap of falling in love with it and envisioning our life in this house before it was truly ours.
During this process, it seems like God keeps showing us a great house, and then takes it away from us at the last minute. But in this season, God is reminding me that I have to change my perspective. We were never promised easy lives, and this certainly isn’t anywhere near as difficult as the trials that people I know are experiencing.
And as I wrestle with God and allow others to hear of our frustrations, I must also come to a place of repentance. I have lacked joy when it was in front of me all along. But all is not lost. I can regain joy while we are still in this trial!
I am learning that to have joy in the midst of affliction takes time and patience. Let’s pray that God would show you and me how to be joyful in our trials, no matter how difficult they may be.
Father, we all experience the trials of life. No matter how many times we experience them, they still hurt. They are still hard to bear. But You are good, and Your love endures forever. Help us to be honest about our perception of trials. Help us to be honest with You about how we feel. May we not allow our experience to distort our view of who You are. Forgive us for lacking joy when you offer it freely and abundantly to us. Give us Your joy unspeakable, full of glory. Amen.