Joy in Our Trials
For a long time, I have imagined that I see everybody with a wheelbarrow. I have a wheelbarrow too. We push them around, and inside are our trials, temptations, fears, failures, disappointments, heartaches, and longings. These are the things that wake us and then keep us awake at three o’clock in the morning.
Living in this world places demands upon us, confronts us with challenges, and buffets us in ways that are painful and sorrowful. When we face these difficulties, often we are told to deny them, conceal them, shoo them away, or live above them. All the while, we’re tempted to resent our trials and grow more and more bitter.
The biblical perspective on hardship differs greatly from all of these options. James said that it is possible to know pure, complete joy in our trials. How can this possibly be? Receiving joy in trials seems to be an absolute contradiction. Most of 21st-century Western life is lived in such a way as to keep trials at bay. It seems obvious that the way to joy is to avoid trials.
James, however, tells us that the way in which we can “count it all joy” is not by moving ourselves into a citadel where troubles are absent but through having our attitudes to those troubles transformed. In saying “for you know,” he is reminding us that we have to bring our feelings under the rule of what we know to be true. And what do we know? That faith by itself does not develop perseverance. True faith is proven and strengthened when it is tested. The things we seek to avoid are the very things that make us.
We have to be honest about the trials we face. We are not yet in heaven, and so our faith is still being tested. It’s not revealed in some blissful, otherworldly experience but in the rough and tumble of everyday life. And the testing of true faith will always produce steadfastness. It will make us more like Jesus. It will make us more able to comfort others. Therefore, we can trust that through all our difficulties God will continue to fashion in us a faith that is perfect and complete. It is as we hold on to that promise that we are able to “count it all joy” as a trial looms ahead or we realize we are deep in one already. We are able to think, “I would not have chosen this path, but the Lord has, and He is going to use it to show me more of Himself and to make me more like Him.”
What is in your wheelbarrow today? They are things you would not have chosen. But what would change if you saw them as opportunities for your faith to be tested, strengthened, and perfected? That is the path to deeper, unconquerable joy.
Peace with God Through Faith
1Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we1 have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2Through him we have also obtained access by faith2 into this grace in which we stand, and we3 rejoice4 in hope of the glory of God. 3Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
6For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— 8but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. 11More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.
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