Finding Joy in Our Trials | November 4th, 2023
Have you ever experienced a really tough trial in your life – the kind that feels like there is no way out, no hope, and not even a glimmer of light at the end of it? Most of us have probably felt that way at some point. Storms are inevitable. No one gets through this life without them. It’s how we are made to be stronger.
I find it interesting that James tells us to count it all joy when we have to endure difficult trials:
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
How is that even possible? Joy is the last thing we are thinking of when we are going through really troublesome times!
The Meaning of Joy
First, it’s important to understand what is meant by the word joy. In the Greek, the word for joy is chara. It’s a feeling of inner gladness, delight, or rejoicing. Joy is different from happiness because it does not depend on our circumstances. It doesn’t need to because it rests in God’s sovereign control of all things.
That’s where our trust in God comes in. The more we know Him and about Him by reading His Word, the easier it is to trust Him. Trials don’t warn us ahead of time that they are coming. It’s often sudden and we must be ready. All the time we spend in advance learning about the One who loves us and is in full control of all things makes a huge difference when facing a trial. Knowing who He is as our powerful Almighty God keeps us standing on a firm foundation instead of flailing around at the mercy of whatever happens. We must be firm in our faith when these trials come.
James tells us that we don’t have to wait for our suffering to end to have joy. It comes in the midst of it all because our suffering is never pointless. God uses it to produce something good for us and through us that has eternal benefits. We will be rewarded!
For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 2 Corinthians 4:17
Joy in Remaining Under
James tells us that the testing of our faith produces steadfastness. The word steadfastness also means endurance, perseverence, and “to remain under” as in remaining under the weight of our suffering. That’s what makes us stronger and spiritually mature.
For a runner, if they remain under the suffering of running mile after mile even though there may be pain, difficulty breathing, or exhaustion, they are able to complete the goal of finishing the race. It makes their body stronger, they are able to endure more, and prepares them for the next race. Same for a person lifting weights. Their muscles must remain under the pressure of the weights, adding a little more resistance as they get stronger in order to continue to build their muscles and increase their strength.
So it is with our faith. Even though we feel ourselves struggling under the heaviness of our pain, we can have joy right now because we know that one day in eternity it will all be worth it!
Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him. James 1:12
God Works All Things Together for Good
While the trials of this life can be frightening and painful as we go through them, we are guaranteed the prize of the crown of life for persevering and finishing the race. And God doesn’t expect us go through these hard things alone. He is always with us and is working to strengthen us so we can cooperate with Him and His plan for our life, whatever that looks like. When we do that, He molds our character to become more and more like Him so He can work everything together for good and we can give Him glory through our toughest trials. He has a purpose through it all!
And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28
Think about how you can be such a light to others when you reflect Christ well, especially through your pain! What a testimony of His love, peace, and joy that shines through you when you submit to God’s will in your suffering. If you stay in darkness consumed with depression, fear, and doubt, that’s what people will see instead of His light and hope which so many people need to see right now. There is enough darkness in this world without any more being added to it! We must stay so close to Jesus through these tough times and give Him complete control over our circumstances so others can see the light and hope of Christ in us.
The Necessity of Wisdom
To grow in steadfastness through our trials, we must have wisdom. We need to be able to see everything the way God sees it, not the way we perceive it. He tells us that all we have to do is ask for wisdom and He will give it to us!
If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. James 1:5-6
So often, we look at our circumstances thinking they are a reflection of God’s character. When we lose our loved one we can’t see how God can possibly be good. When we struggle with our finances we wonder if God can really be all that generous. When we see our children making a mess of their lives after years of godly parenting we think God must not be in full control after all.
Instead of looking at who God is through the difficulties of our circumstances, we need to look at our circumstances through the lens of God’s character. Who does He say He is? He is good – all the time. He is loving and generous. He is sovereign. His Word tells us so. We must believe it so we are not like the wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind at the first sign of trouble. He is our firm foundation who is never shaken and we remain steady by holding onto Him and His many promises. If you are having a hard time believing it, ask Him to give you the faith to believe.
Joy in Growing in Spiritual Maturity
As we persevere in our trials, we will also experience joy as we grow in spiritual maturity. The Apostle Paul actually talks about being able to glory in our sufferings because of the end result!
Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. Romans 5:3-4
The more time we spend with the Lord getting to know who He is and His character, the easier it is to trust Him. Unless we decide to turn away from God in anger and bitterness, hardships and trials definitely intensify our pursuit of knowing Him. Our prayers become much more authentic – a pouring out of our heart rather than routine. We read His Word more often because we have a great desire to be comforted and strengthened. We learn total dependence on Him because everything is out of our control.
When there is nothing we can do to help ourselves, He reminds us of His endless riches to care for our every need. He replaces our worries with His peace. He takes our weakness and gives us His strength. He removes our sadness and shows us how we can have joy in all circumstances.
If we can begin by trusting Him in the smaller waves of suffering, it won’t be as hard to trust Him when it feels like a tsunami is coming full force against us. We can be encouraged that God is using our trials to do good things, as hard as it may be to see it at the time. If we belong to Christ, none of our suffering is ever wasted! When we can submit our suffering to Him allowing Him be in full control, He sanctifies us to beautifully represent Jesus.
Molded into His Likeness
Scottish Baptist minister and writer, Alexander Maclaren (1826-1910), perfectly sums up the way we should look at our trials by keeping the true meaning of our life in perspective…
If I rightly understand the meaning of this world in its bearing on myself, the intention of my whole life to make me what God would have me to be, then I shall not measure things by their capacity to delight and please taste, ambitions, desires, or sense, but only by their power to mould me into His likeness. If I understand that the meanings of sorrow and joy are one, that God intends the same when He gives and when He withdraws, that the fervid suns of autumn and the biting blasts of November equally tend to the production of the harvest, that day and night come from the same cause – the revolution of the earth; if I understand that life is but the scaffolding for building character, and that, if I take out of this world, with all its fading sweets and its fleeting sadnesses, a soul enlarged, ennobled by difficulties and by gladnesses, then I shall welcome them both when they come, and neither the one nor the other will be able to deflect me from my course.
Endurance to the End
As we get through one trial after another, steadfastness continues to grow until it has its full effect. As James tells us, it is then that we will be perfect, complete, lacking in nothing.
And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. James 1:4
Endurance to the end produces perfection and completeness. It is this endurance, not the suffering, that produces spiritual maturity so the way we respond to trials matters! Perfection in maturity will finally be complete in eternity, but we can endure through our trials right now knowing we have an amazing hope in Christ. He has forgiven our sin and offers us the incredible gift of eternal life if we simply receive it, believing in Him alone as our Savior. We also have the crown of life to look forward to. And best of all, our powerful Almighty God will never leave us so He can be there to wipe away every tear, hold our hand with every step, and show us how we can count it all joy with every trial.
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