James 1:2 is a verse that I have struggled with for many years. It says, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds…”
The command to count our trials as joy is counterintuitive to human nature. We would rather count our trials as trials. After all, the trials we face in life are painful. They make us want to yell and complain and cry out in agony. How then, are we to face the most painful things in life with joy?
Pastor and author David Mathis addresses this question in his article The Priceless Gift in Every Trial.
Mathis writes, “When James charges us to ‘count it all joy,’ he does not mean it all — all our pain, all our trials, all our hardship — is joy in and of itself. Pain is pain, not joy. Trials are trying, not sources of pleasure. Rather, what James has for us — and what the gospel of Christ provides — is a lens on life, and a true vantage point on reality, through which even life’s most painful trials have a vital part to play in our joy.”
He continues, “James does not say, “Count it only joy.” We wince. We wail. We hurt. We ask, “How long, O Lord?” God does not expect us to receive our trials as only joy. In fact, Christians, of all people, should be most ready to receive pain as pain, tragedy as tragedy, trauma as trauma. We count, or reckon, our trials as joy, because we don’t simply feel them naturally to be so.”
If you have struggled with James 1:2 like I did, this explanation should give you comfort. Mathis makes two very important points here.
- Our trials are still trials, but there is joy to be found in the trials.
- We are not asked to ignore the pain.
While it is a relief to know that our trials aren’t only joy, it will still be hard to find the joy in life’s hardest circumstances. When you lose your job and can no longer provide for your family, or when you watch a loved one suffer through cancer, the joy is almost impossible to see.
According to Mathis, we might look for a reason to follow the command in James 1:2. Fortunately James gives our aching hearts a reason to look for joy in the very next verse.
“...for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness” (James 1:3).
Steadfast is faith is faith that can endure throughout life, through the good and bad.
Our trials in life can be seen as tests of steadfast faith. And Mathis says that our faith must be tested in order to remain strong.
“...one of the things God is doing when he tests our faith is he is preserving our faith. When he lovingly brings trials into our lives — and he does so lovingly for all who are in Jesus — he is working for us, and in us, one of the greatest goods imaginable. When he tests us, he is taking action to keep us,” Mathis writes.
“Faith does not flourish when it lies untested. It atrophies when it goes unexercised. And eventually it dies.”
Crosswalk.com writer Dr. David B. Hawkins offers practical advice on applying James 1:2 in our lives when trials surface. And strange as it may seem, a good place to start is by thanking God for the difficult circumstances in front of you.
“Thank God for these challenges,” Hawkins writes. “God only gives good gifts. Scripture says ‘All things work together for good.’ (Romans 8:28) Do you believe this? Every blessing and struggle can work together for my good. Thank God for everything that comes into your life.”
Carrie Dedrick is an editor of Crosswalk.com. When she is not writing or editing, she can usually be found teaching dance classes, running marathons, or reading with at least one adopted dog on her lap.
Photo courtesy: Thinkstockphotos.com
Publication date: February 24, 2017