Count it All Joy
The world has endured plagues, wars, poverty and oppression for generations. Jesus promised that no matter what happens in the world, He will continue to build His church. It is the promise and the hope of God’s people that He will uphold us with His righteous right hand. How should we think about emerging from these difficult days?
Count It All Joy
Think for a moment about two or three realities in your life that bring you happiness. While you think of them, let me give you a few of mine. I experience happiness taking walks with my wife on warm, sunny days and listening to her describe by name all the many creatures we see along the way. I also love watching my daughters play with their toys, ride their bikes or dance in the living room when we join worship services online. I’m overjoyed that there are three orders of magnitude more cells in the human body than stars in the Milky Way galaxy, and that there are about 200 different types of human cells, each with its own unique design and function. I’m happy meditating on the truth that God set up laws of nature to govern His created order and He upholds these laws by the Word of His power (Hebrews 1:3)! I love the smell of honeysuckle in the spring, the beautiful plumage of the birds singing their glorious songs in the morning and the magnificent array of bright colors painted on trees in the fall.
So, what are a few of yours? Undoubtedly, you have many, many things that bring you happiness. In fact, we all pursue joy. Christian philosopher Blaise Pascal said, “All men seek happiness. This is without exception.” But why? Well, because God is happy. Infinitely happy. And since we were created in His image, it makes sense that we pursue happiness as part of our imitation of Him. In fact, God gave us millions of ways to experience joy. The myriad of temporal pleasures in this life are designed to whet our appetites for the insurmountable happiness we will have with God in eternity.
Joy In Trial
But there is a confounding, paradoxical truth about joy in the Bible. In James 1:2, God commands us to find joy in our . . . trials? Really? I’m just going to take a wild guess that trials did not make your top three list of things that bring you happiness. How can we possibly find joy in suffering? Isn’t that like trying to mix oil and water? But read the whole context carefully. The first word in verse 3 is the key to understanding what James means: for trials test our faith, and the testing of our faith produces endurance or perseverance. God does not tell us to be happy about the situation of our trials; rather, He wants us to be happy about what He will produce in us through the trial, namely, faithful endurance.
We are currently in the midst of a great trial. The pandemic is wrecking our jobs, health, finances and relationships. Some of us may even experience the loss of loved ones. Through recent events, fears have risen to agonizing levels, and it has produced a painful ache in our souls as we've watched people's anger explode into violence on the streets, even in our own backyards. So, yes, the suffering is very real, and I’m grateful that throughout the Bible, God never makes light of our pain. But I’m even more grateful that God redeems our pain by producing greater enduring faith in Him.
Response to Trial
So, what should we do in these trials? Again, we can look to James 1 for help. We ought to go directly to God in total dependence upon Him, ask Him for wisdom to navigate through these trials (verses 5–8), practice humility knowing the brevity of our lives (verses 9–10) and dive into the joy of knowing that God is producing a greater faith in us through whatever trials we face.
God promises in verse 12 that happiness abounds to those who endure their trials because they will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love Him. So, suffering and joy are not oil and water. They do mix. We can be sorrowful and yet always rejoice. We can experience happiness in these current trials and in hardship to come because the joy that comes from trusting God is producing in us a greater faith that will endure the test of time, ushering in eternal delight in an eternal Savior.