Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. (James 1:2)
The very first thing we need to embrace about the idea of joy’s job in this world is the fact that joy does indeed have a job to do. Notice that James did not wonder “if” you will face trials, but rather assured us that trials are part of the Christian life. As I have said here many times, trials are promised to the disciple of Jesus.
Once we understand that trials are an inevitable part our lives, we must learn how we are to profit from them, because just as trials have been promised to us, so too has the profit that we are to receive from them. Please note that James was not suggesting that we live according to the mantra of the popular 1980s pop song, “Don’t Worry, Be Happy.” Trials are never easy, and we are not to pretend to “be happy” when storm winds blow our way. You see, joy is a far bigger word than happy. Joy is a state of mind that rises above mere feelings; joy is an “inside job” performed in the heart of the believer, because we know that our God is good . . . and His goodness includes painful providences, which He delivers into our lives for our ultimate good and for His glory.
Joy is a peaceful, settled confidence that God is in control of all things, from our greatest joys to the storm winds that blow our way. God ordained the storm. He is in the storm with us, and it is in His presence through the Holy Spirit that we are able to receive joy’s job in our lives.
What is the job that joy does? James provided the answer; joy’s job is to produce perseverance in us (James 1:2). Trials are used by God to challenge our faith in order to grow and mature us in our walk with Jesus. James went on to say that our trials are actually “good and perfects” gifts from God to us (James 1:17), gifts designed to accomplish God’s greatest goal for every one of His children: Christlikeness.
When the apostle Paul wrote that “God works all things for the good of those who live him” (Romans 8:28), he was not in any way suggesting that all things are good. Some trials are very, very bad. But Paul was assuring us that God will take even the bad things and work them together for our good. Like Paul, James did not suggest that all trials are good and therefore we should be happy about them. What James was saying is that all our trials are producing good from the hand of God and thus should be received with joy.
One final point on the job that joy performs in our lives. Even in the midst of unimaginable trials that cause us to despair, our grief is part of our joy, because we know that God is using even this as part of the process of making us like Jesus. So the disciple of Christ doesn’t wait for the trial to be over to consider it all joy. Rather, we consider it all joy while we are in the middle of the storm, because we have chosen to consider it all joy because Jesus is with us and using our trials to make us more and more like Him.
Remember these words from the psalmist, “Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning” (Psalm 30:5). To be sure, there will be weeping in this life, but we need only stay close to God in order to experience the joy of the Lord, which is our strength.
This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!