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How can we count it all joy when we go through various trials?

In the book of James, chapter 1 and verses 2-3, we read: “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.”

In Albert Barnes’ Notes on the Whole Bible we read that to count it all joy is to “regard it as a thing to rejoice in; a matter which should afford you happiness. You are not to consider it as a punishment, a curse, or a calamity, but as a fit subject of felicitation (an expression of such joy or acknowledgment).”

Coffman’s Commentaries on the Bible observes: “Count it all joy … Did not Christ say, ‘Blessed are ye when men shall persecute you … rejoice and be exceeding glad’? (Matthew 5:11,12). This is exactly the thought of James here.”

Calvin’s Commentary on the Bible gives this explanation: “All joy. The first exhortation is, to bear trials with a cheerful mind. And it was especially necessary at that time to comfort the Jews, almost overwhelmed as they were with troubles. For the very name of the nation was so infamous, that they were hated and despised by all people wherever they went; and their condition as Christians rendered them still more miserable, because they held their own nation as their most inveterate enemies. At the same time, this consolation was not so suited to one time, but that it is always useful to believers, whose life is a constant warfare on earth.”

It is, perhaps, one of the most difficult instructions in the Bible for most Christians to deal with.  The Bible is replete with examples of hardships and difficulties that God-fearing individuals have encountered and overcome, as well as difficulties encountered by the true Church of God which is made up by spirit-begotten members.

In 2 Corinthians 12:7 the apostle Paul wrote: “And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure.”  Whilst he was not healed in this life, he will be when he is resurrected at Christ’s return. James, the half-brother of Christ, showed how we should react in a crisis or crises and we will all have known the joy when such a crisis or crises have passed.

We have to accept that we will have suffering in this life, in one way or another, as all other people do. However, as someone called by God, we may well have more trials because God wants to see how we react when confronted by such difficulties. Will we just give in or will we show the necessary resilience, the ability to recover quickly from illness, change, or other difficulties?  To make it into the Kingdom of God, we have to show character and nothing less will do.

Further, it would be unrealistic to expect to live a full life and never have any test, trial or difficulty.   If we never had problems, it wouldn’t be real life.   Think of the joy when we are healed of a disease; when we overcome what may have seemed at one time an insurmountable obstacle, and when see our family, friends and church members also succeed where it may not have been realistic to expect such an outcome.   If there is not a trial in the first place, there is no possibility of joy that such a positive outcome would bring.

We can have trials in many different ways: spiritually, mentally, physically, emotionally, psychologically and financially, and it is how we deal with these that really counts.

There are a number of Scriptures that follow through on this principle (our emphasis by underlining).

Romans 5:3-4:

“And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope.”

James 1:12; the subheading is “Loving God Under Trials”:

“Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.”

James 5:10-11:

“My brethren, take the prophets, who spoke in the name of the Lord, as an example of suffering and patience. Indeed we count them blessed who endure. You have heard of the perseverance of Job and seen the end intended by the Lord—that the Lord is very compassionate and merciful.”

1 Peter 1:6:

In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials…”

2 Corinthians 12:10:

Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

Colossians 1:24; the subheading is: “Sacrificial Service for Christ”:

I now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up in my flesh what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ, for the sake of His body, which is the church…”

1 Peter 4:12-19; the subheading is: “Suffering for God’s glory”:

“Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy.  If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.  On their part He is blasphemed, but on your part He is glorified. But let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or as a busybody in other people’s matters. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter.  For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God?  Now ‘If the righteous one is scarcely saved, Where will the ungodly and the sinner appear?’  Therefore let those who suffer according to the will of God commit their souls to Him in doing good, as to a faithful Creator.”

Let us go back to James 1:2-3 and look at what one online writer wrote:

“In order to understand what James is doing, let’s put three definitions underneath all of this. ‘Joy’ is not glib, naive happiness. The Bible refers to joy as contentment in Christ above all else. ‘Steadfastness’ carries similar connotations. It means to be confidently rooted in Christ; in other words, it means that all of our confidence comes from belonging to him, not depending on our own effort or resources. ‘Faith’ is believing that the promises of God that we cannot yet see or feel as reality will someday come true, because He said so.

“Now, we can rephrase what James is telling us, and ask how it is possible to live out these words. He is saying, ‘Seek to be happy in Christ above anything else, and you will find that, even in trials, He will prove Himself and make His promises real to you again.’ By implication, then, it will be worth it. All of it will be worth it.”

And so, coming back to the question “How Can We Count it All Joy When We Go Through Various Trials?”, we can state the answer in this way: Put simply, because we cannot hurdle these obstacles successfully through our own power, they drive us to seek help from God.  There is the joy of trusting God even when things are not going in the direction that we would want and it can also demonstrate that our future life in God’s Family means more to us than our current plight.

Yes, it can be difficult, very difficult at times, but when we see the “big picture” and realise that our current existence is but a training ground for eternity, then we can move on towards our goal with joy and excitement even when we are suffering many trials in this life.   Many of us in the Church of God may still struggle with this instruction but although it can be difficult in our current frame, it can be done.   In fact, it must be done so that God can see that we trust Him in everything.

Let us consider this matter very seriously and do, as this admonition in James exhorts us to do.

Lead Writer: Brian Gale (United Kingdom)