Joy in the Midst of Trials: A Quick Look at Three Passages

By | April 20, 2024

Some passages timelessly encourage believers in the midst of trials. What follows is a quick look at three such passages—Romans 5:3–5, James 1:2–4, and 1 Peter 1:6–9. We briefly examine their common themes to encourage us today.


Both James and Peter speak of “trials” (peirasmos), a word that can focus on the aspect of testing in a trial (James 1:2; 1 Peter 1:6). James speaks of “the testing of your faith” (James 1:2), and Peter, “the tested genuineness of your faith” (1 Peter 1:6). “Testing” and “tested genuineness” are translations of the same word (dokimion) and are related to the word “character” (dokimē), the result of such testing that Paul describes in Romans 5:4.

Paul refers to “sufferings” (thlipsis), focusing on a trial’s distressing nature (Romans 5:3). Peter similarly notes that trials can leave us “grieved” (1 Peter 1:6). Altogether, trials are grievous, distressing events allowed by God, meant to test our faith.


Joy in trial is indicative of a believer. Peter states, “In this [a trial] you rejoice” (1 Peter 1:6). “Rejoice” (agalliaō) is used again with a description that brings out the nuance of this verb—“you… rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory” (1 Peter 1:9).

Paul states more succinctly, “We rejoice in our sufferings” (Romans 5:3). Apart from this passage (Romans 5:2, 3, 11), this word for “rejoice” (kauchaomai) is translated “boast” (e.g., Romans 2:17, 23) and even “glory” (e.g., Philippians 3:3). We boast and glory in suffering, knowing that God means it for our good.

Joy in the midst of trial is also imperative for the believer. James commands, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds” (James 1:2). “Count” means to think about something in a certain way. Believers must think of various kinds of unexpected trials as reason for all joy. While thinking this way should be indicative of who we are, we often fail to do so, thinking of our trials as something other than joy. We need the Spirit’s commands to counter our temptation to think this way and to view our trials correctly.


So how do we achieve the joy that Scripture declares and commands that we should receive in and from these trials? It comes from thinking correctly about why God gives us these trials. One reason why God gives us trials is for our present sanctification.

As we respond rightly in trial, Paul lists what suffering produces—“endurance… character… hope” (Romans 5:3–4). James likewise lists “steadfastness” and “its full effect,” being “perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:3–4). These lists from Paul and James are progressive, one item progressing to the next. Trials teach us to persevere, prove our character, and live with Christian maturity and hope, whatever we might experience.

Peter generally speaks of “the tested genuineness of your faith” but seems to describe later what that genuineness looks like—loving the unseen Jesus Christ, believing in Him, and rejoicing with inexpressible, glorious joy (1 Peter 1:8). Persevering in trials is not simply gritting our teeth and gutting our way to their end. A true and tested faith focuses on Jesus in the midst of a trial and is marked by love, faith, and joy.


Another reason why God gives us trials is to assure us of future reward. As we persevere, we know reward will come, giving us joy right now. Paul speaks of “hope” (Romans 5:3–4), later specifying its source—we will “be saved by him [Christ] from the wrath of God” and we will “be saved by His life” (Romans 5:9–10). This hope of future salvation also stems from the knowledge of “God’s love” for us in Christ, made certain to us in “our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Romans 5:5).

Similarly, James says that “the man who remains steadfast under trial” is “blessed.” And why? “For when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.” (James 1:12). Peter likewise roots our inexpressible joy in the results of Christ’s return. At that time, “the tested genuineness of [our] faith… may be found to result in praise and glory and honor,” and we will receive “the outcome of [our] faith, the salvation of [our] souls” (1 Peter 1:8–9).

Trials are sure to come. But trials should be for our joy. They are meant for our sanctification now, which assures us of our salvation that will come. So, in the midst of grief and distress, look to Jesus Christ, love Him, and rejoice that He will honor your faith when He gives full salvation to your soul.

Image by Сергей Корчанов from Pixabay