“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
I’m going to shoot it to you straight – I never liked the scripture mentioned above. One cannot possibly be joyful in trials. Trials are awful.
Thanks, James, but that’s a hard pass. (Anyone else out there virtually raising their hand with me?)
Then, the senior pastor at our church announced this past Fall that he was starting a Wednesday night Bible study entitled “Journaling Through James.” Honestly, I was excited and terrified at the same time.
For those unfamiliar with this small, 5-chapter book in the New Testament, James doesn’t hold back. He packs some pretty hard punches in just 108 verses; and yes, you’d better strap in because each and every verse is purposeful, powerful, and soul-piercing.
I knew that as we went through this verse-by-verse inductive study of James as a church body that I would have to face some pretty hard truths about myself – specifically my heart. You can’t possibly go through this book and not be changed inside.
So there I was on October 20, 2021, with pen, paper, and Bible in hand, ready to dive into James with heart and hands wide open, ready to receive what the Lord needed to teach me.
And you know what? I actually learned something new. As many times as I had read and heard this passage (vv. 1:2-4) preached before, I never actually grasped what it really meant. But, more importantly, WHY God put it there in the first place.
Of course our natural reaction when we’re hit with yet another hardship in life is not going to be joyful and we won’t shout it from the rooftops. Because at the time, all we can see is the here and now. The immediate – what’s in front of us. We can’t see the big picture like God can.
So how are we supposed to embody this fruit of the Spirit and “count it all joy?”
The answer is plainly in what lies ahead – that big picture that God sees.
“for [because] you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness [patience]. And let steadfastness [patience] have its full effect [work perfectly], that you may be perfect and complete [who God intended you to be], lacking nothing.”
Therein lies the purpose for our trials. We learn things and are perfected in ways we never could had we not gone through those fires. That is how we know we can be joyful when facing trials. They help mold us more and more into the image of Christ.
If we truly believe as Romans 8:28 tells us that, “all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose,” then we can face trials with an eternal perspective that should give us great joy!
Eleven years ago, I went through an incredibly difficult season as I faced seven months of unemployment. I’m sure even today there are some reading this facing the same thing. The thoughts that consumed me at the beginning of that desert season ranged from “How will I make my mortgage payments?” to “Where will my next meal come from?”
It was not something I ever imagined going through, nor would I wish it on anyone. God bless the family and friends I had who came alongside me during that trial to encourage me, hold me up, feed me, and go to bat for me arranging interviews and the like. It was certainly one of the hardest things I’d ever faced.
But you know what? It was also the greatest season of spiritual growth I’d ever experienced in my life. What I thought was a major life derailment was actually God’s redirection. He had something infinitely better! (Doesn’t He always?)
The Lord truly replaced my worry with joy in that season as I sought Him and His will for my life. He lovingly showed me the richness of some of the many things I was missing out on in this life because I was so focused on my way. He led me to the point of relying on Him to sustain me and not my career to define me.
We’ve all been through hard things the past few years and I don’t pretend to know what anyone else is going through. I may not be able to relate to every single battle you are facing today, but I do know our great God wants us to be more like Him and desires to do a good work in us, however that may come. Some days, that may just look like putting one foot in front of the other and trusting in Him to get our feet moving. I get it.
So here are 5 practical steps to help us “count it all joy”:
Pray, pray, and pray some more.Even when there are days when you don’t have the words, praise God that He has given believers the Holy Spirit who “intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words” Romans 8:26.
Take your worries to the Lord and leave them at the feet of Jesus, trusting Him to do what only He can do.
Reach out.We are not meant to do life alone! “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God” 2 Corinthians 1:3-4.
It is very likely that there is someone in your inner circle who has faced something similar to what you are going through. By reaching out and allowing them to encourage and minister to you, they actually receive a blessing too! When our first inclination may be to retreat and close ourselves off from the world as we fight our battles, resist the temptation and reach out.
Journal.I look back on my prayer journal from that time 11 years ago when I was clinging to God so tightly and I thank Him for that season now because of all it taught me. I see the answered prayers along the way, the undeniable ways in which the Lord took care of my every need, sometimes before I even told anyone. He is a faithful God! And chronicling through that journey helps us reflect with joy.
Celebrate!Remember those days when all you could do is put one foot in front of the other? Celebrate and thank God for getting you through that day. And then the day after that. Celebrate answered prayers along the way. And then, most definitely, celebrate whenever God brings you through a trial to the other side. By focusing our minds on being thankful for any and all progress, we take our eyes off the problem and look forward with holy anticipation.
Keep an eternal perspective.Throughout the whole trial, it’s vital for us to keep an eternal mindset. Remember the goal of our trials? “the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”
When we keep in mind God’s eternal purpose, we are better equipped to face trials with joy. This life and these circumstances are temporary. God’s Kingdom is eternal.
If you’re like me and ever wondered how on earth you could possibly be joyful in the midst of trials, a good place to start is to pray and ask God not why you’re in the trial, but rather what He wants to teach you in it. When we ask God to change our hearts, He is faithful to do just that.
So whatever tomorrow holds, let us count it all joy!
Article also seen in The Christian Post.