The dictionary defines the word trial as “a state of pain, distress, or grief; misery.”
In his New Testament epistle, James tells us “to count it all joy when you face trials of many kinds…”
Hmmmm. Something doesn’t add up here. The word misery is right in the definition. So, how is it possible to be joyful in misery? It isn’t. At least not in my own strength. If joy depended solely on my ability to muster it, I can guarantee that you would not see evidence of joy in my life. I can only speak for myself of course; perhaps others have the ability to produce joy in themselves in even the most difficult circumstances. Forgive me, though, when I have to say that I doubt that is the case.
Joy has nothing to do with circumstances.
Did you get that? I mean, did you really get that statement? Let me repeat it just to be sure.
Joy has nothing to do with circumstances.
I know that because I have been an eyewitness to people who exude joy when events going on in their lives are tremendously sad or difficult or unfair or… You get the idea. I know of a couple who suffered through several miscarriages, were finally blessed with a precious baby only to find out that baby had cancer. They lost her before she was three years old. They still sing praises to their God. Other families I know have suffered tremendous financial losses. They still love their Savior. I could write example after example of folks who, by the world’s standards, have every right to be angry and bitter. Yet, they are not.
The common denominator here is a spiritual one. The foundation isn’t built on what is owned or lost. The foundation is built on belief in a God who, because He said He doesn’t change and because He said He is always loving, is always the same and always loving.
Why am I thinking about trials and joy tonight? The main reason is because I am in the midst of a big one in my own life. At first I thought it would be a quickly passing trial and life would return to what I always knew. That has not happened. I’m not saying it can’t or won’t happen. It just hasn’t yet. That fact has taken me a bit by surprise. I find myself battling to not give into the temptation to become bitter and angry. I know my God is the same yesterday, today and forever. I know this because I have walked the road of bitterness before. It was a dead end road. When the time is right, I will tell that story. The fact is, I know that God works all things for the good of those who love Him. I can’t say how that will happen, for I am not God. But I trust that it will happen.
So why should I be joyful in trial? James gives us the answer: “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.”
By being joyful in my trial, I will be growing in steadfastness–patience–and I will lack nothing! I don’t need to muster up the strength to be joyful nor do I need to be fake. I need to lean hard on Jesus, knowing that in Him, I lack nothing. Some days that is easier said than done, but the more I intentionally lean on and trust in His goodness, the easier it becomes. When my dad first took the training wheels off my bike, I fell a lot! But the more I rode that two-wheeler, the better my balance became and I fell less and less.
I see that principle at work in my life right now. This trial is making me weary, but God gives strength to the weary. It’s okay to hope for an end to this trial; it’s not okay to let it define my attitude toward life and loved ones. Joy in trial produces so much more than a dead end road of anger and bitterness.
“My foes are many, they rise against me
But I will hold my ground
I will not fear the war, I will not fear the storm
My help is on the way, my help is on the way
Oh, my God, He will not delay
My refuge and strength always
I will not fear, His promise is true
My God will come through always, always.”
(Always by Kristian Stanfill)
One more thing. I know Jesus is for me and He is all I need, but it is so comforting to know I have brothers and sisters in Christ willing to walk this road of trial with me. I love them more than words can say.