By Justin Hauck
James 1:2-3 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.
I think we can all recall a time as a child when, after doing something mean to one of our friends, our parents would sit us down and tell us to “go say you’re sorry.” After some coercion, this would be followed by the least sincere “sorry” that could possibly be muttered under one’s breath. If the anger of the dispute was not still apparent in the tone of the apology, the underlying feelings were almost certainly still there, and the apology was no-doubt delivered out of compliance and not due to a sudden feeling of true remorse.
When reading through James 1, my initial reaction is to be something like that kid again. To “count it all joy” when going through “trials of various kinds” is the complete opposite of how I want to feel. Like a kid being told to apologize, my gut reaction is to mumble “I’m happy” so that I can pretend my mindset is in the right place and get back to dealing with my problems. There is a huge difference though, between saying something with our mouths and meaning something with our hearts, and I think James’ intent here is for us to focus on our hearts through trials, not just alter how we talk about them.
James’ request to “count it all joy” is not a command to declare suffering as such, but a request to consider that there is some joy to be found in every situation because of the fact that, “the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.” No matter what trial we go through, when we work through our suffering with God, we are able to grow in our faith and relationship with him and come out better on the other side.
James is not suggesting we suppress all other feelings during trials, nor is he suggesting that the situation itself will magically become more ideal, but by realizing that every trial we go through is also an opportunity to grow closer to God and place more trust in him, it is hard to not start feeling at least some joy when we enter into something new. We may not have the answers up front or know how we’ll make it to the end, but we know that if we work through it with God, we will eventually get through to the other side having grown closer to Him.
My challenge for you is this: When facing something new that is uncertain, scary, painful, depressing, or frustrating, consider what opportunity God has to work in your heart throughout it. The problem may not go away instantly, but know that with every step you take navigating your way through the problem with God, you are also moving one step closer to Him.
Prayer: Lord, thank you for your continual desire to grow closer with us. Please help us to seek you first when going through new trials in life, and thank you for the opportunities that they bring for us to build a stronger relationship with you.