How Can We ‘Count It All Joy’ in Trials as James 1:2 Says?
- Jessica Van Roekel Author of Reframing Rejection
- 2020 18 May
Count it all joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds... – James 1:2
What is God asking of us when we read, "count it all joy" or to “consider it pure joy whenever you face trials?”
The trials that plunge us into grief feel impossible to navigate. The days marked by chronic illness—physical or emotional—takes its toll on one’s well-being.
Most of us deal with some form of a trial on a regular basis, whether it’s our marriage, kids, health, or work. Sometimes they loom large and other times they pester us like a biting fly.
With all these trials, how do we experience joy?
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What Does ‘Count (Consider) it All Joy’ Mean?Slide 1 of 6
James 1:2 echoes John 16:33: trials come our way, but we’re called to respond to them with courage and joy.
In five, practical, power-packed chapters James calls his readers to holiness in living. James writes of the outward serving faith, while Paul writes of the inner saving faith.
Both men reveal the power of faith to transform how we interact with others—regardless of our circumstances or trials.
In Aramaic, “consider” means, “to lead the way” or “to lead before the mind.” This shows us that our mind is an active participant in our faith.
Suffering produces perseverance, perseverance produces character, and character produces hope. Perseverance is the unswerving, deliberate, and loyal attitude towards faith in the face of suffering.
So our trials can be the impetus for joy in our lives because we know that hope is our reward (Romans 5:3-4).
Our future glory awaits us when we face our trials and sufferings with joy. In Jesus we have eternal life, access to our Father, and atonement for our sins. We share in his holiness and righteousness, but also in the trials that bring suffering.
Next, let’s look at who wrote this verse and why.
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Authorship and Context around James 1:2Slide 2 of 6
James identifies himself as, “a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ,” writing to the “twelve tribes in the dispersion.” Although there are four ‘James’ mentioned in the New Testament, most scholars agree that James, the half-brother of Jesus, wrote this book.
James, considered to be a well-known leader in the Jerusalem church, refrained from elaboration on his identity in the opening statement. The dispersion refers to the scattered Jewish believers throughout the region who were experiencing poverty and persecution.
James, as a pastor, wrote this letter to instruct and encourage them while they faced these trials. He tempers his commands with deep compassion as he calls his readers, “my friends,” numerous times.
He uses vivid illustrations to convey answers to practical instruction. Some have likened this book to Proverbs because of the wisdom it contains. James addresses the ethical standards of the early church and gives us insight into many of the issues the church faced. These standards transcend time as they apply to us today.
Other Versions of James 1:2
ESV: Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds...
NET: My brothers and sisters, consider it nothing but joy when you fall into all sorts of trials.
NLT: Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy.
NASB: Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials...
NKJV: My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials.
CEV: My friends, be glad, even if you have a lot of trouble.
So how do we consider our trials joy? Examples abound in the Bible:
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4 Biblical Examples of Joy in TrialsSlide 3 of 6
1. Paul: The apostle Paul wrote many of the books in the New Testament, including Philippians where he used various forms of the word for joy 16 times. The most remembered passage is Philippians 4:4, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again, rejoice.”
In 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, Paul instructs that the will of God is for us to be “joyful always...in all circumstances.” He wrote this out of his own experience with trials involving shipwrecks, persecution, and imprisonment. He knew joy in the face of his trials.
2. David: The man after God’s heart knew trials as well. Following his anointing to be king, he lived a fugitive’s life in caves and wildernesses. Later in his reign, he took a woman not his wife, had her husband murdered, and tried to pretend the truth away.
He had a dysfunctional family with one son conspiring to take the throne away from him. Yet, despite all his troubles, he blessed the Lord and rejoiced in God’s steadfast love and faithfulness.
3. The Israelites: These people repeated a cycle of repentance and judgment. At the time of Ezra and Nehemiah, they no longer lived in their own country, but served at the commands of other people. Later, a remnant returned to rebuild Jerusalem surrounded by their enemies.
Nehemiah 8 records the people weeping in repentance as they heard the word of God read to them. Despite this overwhelming sorrow, they received instruction to rejoice.
Then all the people went away to eat and drink, to send portions of food and to celebrate with great joy, because they now understood the words that had been made known to them. – Nehemiah 8:12
4. Jesus: Our Savior knew joy in the face of trials. Isaiah prophesied that Jesus would be a man of sorrows and familiar with suffering. Yet in Hebrews 12:2, we read that Jesus, “who for the joy set before him endured the cross.”
He held onto joy as his body went through excruciating pain. His final sacrifice reconciled us to God and conquered death. His love for us and his Father helped him endure the cross with joy set before him.
It’s interesting to look at how various translations of the Bible word this challenging verse:
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Other Scriptures Related to ‘Count it All Joy’Slide 4 of 6
Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. – Matthew 5:12 ESV
Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and 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. – Romans 5:3-5 ESV
In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory... – 1 Peter 1:6-8 ESV
Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man! Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets. – Luke 6:22-23
But rejoice insofar as you share Christ's sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. – 1 Peter 4:13 ESV
The concept of hardships as blessings is central to our faith in a God who knows the way. Here are four ways to view your trials as joy, even today:
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4 Ways to Count it All Joy in Your TrialsSlide 5 of 6
Trials are part of this life, but when we remember to view them as an opportunity for future glory, we’re able to find joy. Imagine knowing the satisfaction that we didn’t give up when life felt dark. We fought, we stood firm, we fixed our eyes on Jesus, and knew joy because of the glory to come.
I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory the will be revealed in us. – Romans 8:18
1. Our pathway to hope travels through perseverance and character. We can rejoice in (not for) our current sufferings because we know what they’re achieving in our character.
2. We are established and strengthened. The trials James 1:2 refers to are the kinds of trials we “fall into” as we live this life. They could be the consequences of a struggling economy, a devastating accident, or a time of persecution.
Instead of biding our time, we wrestle and fight for joy. Like the metamorphosis of a caterpillar into a butterfly, we beat our wings against the chrysalis and emerge mature.
We struggle against the trial by standing firm in our faith and by letting the Lord lead us into maturity.
And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm, and steadfast – 1 Peter 5:10
3. We don’t labor in vain. At times, God calls us to a specific time and place to minister, but he calls all of us to stand firm and to give ourselves fully to the Lord’s work. When we consider it joy when we face trials, we believe God’s plan for us and do the work of trusting him. Let firm faith lead your mind to belief.
Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. – 1 Corinthians 15:58
4. We gain testimony. There’s nothing more stirring than hearing someone’s own experiences. Our testimony matters. Throughout the Bible we find the importance of remembering and then telling others about the works of the Lord.
When the Israelites forgot, they strayed from God’s covenant. Now, more than ever, we need each other’s story.
Who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows. – 2 Corinthians 1:4-5
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A Prayer to Count it All JoySlide 6 of 6
Thank you for your gift of joy during this time of trial. You call me to stand firm and then you plant my feet on solid rock. You are my rock and refuge and you’re also my joy. I take joy in knowing the power of your grace to transform me.
Help me to come through this with more joy. Forgive me for doubting you. I know you never leave and never forsake, but you’re with me always. Help me to find my joy in you. You are mighty to save, you delight in me, and yours is the victory. I give you glory and look to you for joy in my trials. In Jesus’s name, Amen.
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