Joy in the Midst of Unexpected Trials

By | March 21, 2024

James 1:2–4 states, “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’s main command is, “Count it all joy,” “it” being “when you meet trials of various kinds.” While the pain of a trial lasts as long as the trial itself and even lingers in its memory, there is a deep-rooted joy that we can have nonetheless—the joy of knowing that God uses these trials to mature our faith in Him.

To “meet” these trials has the idea of encountering them unexpectedly. This same verb is translated as “striking” in Acts 27:41. Paul and others attempted to sail to land in the midst of a storm. However, their boat unexpectedly hit an obstacle along the way—“striking a reef, they ran the vessel aground.” No one looks for trials. We sometimes meet them unexpectedly.

However, even when we unexpectedly meet a trial, joy can still be ours. We can have joy as “brothers,” those who have a fellowship with the Lord and one another, helping each other through these times. We can have joy, knowing “that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.” “Steadfastness” is “the capacity to hold out or bear up in the face of difficulty” (BDAG). And, as we “let steadfastness have its full effect” (literally, “its completed work”), we will be “perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” The idea is this—as we encounter various trials and respond in faith, we eventually reach a point of consistent Christian maturity. If nothing else, that we see that maturity when we have joy in the midst of trials.

Remember our greatest example of joy in the midst of trial—“Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2). In this passage, Jesus looked to “the joy that was set before Him,” “endured the cross,” and did so “despising the shame” that it brought. “The joy set before Him” was to be at the Father’s right hand, ruling a blood-bought church that would be His spotless Bride one day. “The cross” was the worst of trials that one could experience—immense, undeserved physical pain that led to death, becoming sin for us, and being forsaken by the Father above. “Despising the shame” meant thinking little to nothing of the shame of the cross when compared to the joy that would soon be His.

Are you in the midst of trial right now? If not, you might unexpectedly meet one soon. When it comes, count it joy to know that God is using this trial to make you more like Jesus Christ in whose presence you will be one day.

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