Joy Through Trials
Often when hard times come our way, we are not ready for them. No matter if we know in advance or if we try to prepare ourselves for them, we rarely do a good job of preparing. It may be that we can never truly prepare ourselves for trials, for those hard times, hard things.
When I have trials in my life, I frequently think of this verse.
James 1:2-3 says:
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.
This is a verse I like to think about. I may not completely understand it, but it gives me hope. It gives me hope that I may persevere through those trials. It gives me hope because I know God will be with me through the trials.
But what does the verse mean? Why should we consider it “pure joy” when we face trials? And what does “pure joy” even mean?
My pastor preached a sermon on James a few years ago. Here are some of his thoughts on James 1:2-3:
~JOY is not a feeling of happiness. It is not something that if we try hard enough we can stir up.
~It is not a constantly cheerful mood. Sometimes the appropriate response is to be grieving, sad, and struggling.
~Nor is joy an expectation of relief and comfort.
~Joy is about understanding the spiritual dynamics of the trials that we come under.
In the last quote from my pastor, he says that joy is understanding, understanding the circumstances around us. But more importantly it is about understanding the spiritual dynamics of the situation. So what are the spiritual dynamics? Well, here are my thoughts on this. I believe that it is understanding that God is still with us. He will NEVER leave us (Deuteronomy 31:8). God tells us this many times in the Bible and in many different ways. I also believe that we must remember what the true joy is. In Psalms (Psalm 51:12), it says, “Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me”. God gave us salvation through His Son Jesus. This Psalm is asking God to once again show us the joy that only comes from salvation in Him!
While this verse may have much more to it, the two biggest things that I get from it is (1) God will always be with me and never leave me and (2) I have true joy in my salvation that is found in Christ Jesus! My definition of “joy” has always been that it is something that is on the inside. Even when we may not be “happy” on the outside, we can have joy because of Christ and we can have JOY even in the trials.
This is something that God has laid upon my heart. I know I do not have this all figured out. I would love to hear your descriptions of JOY. I would also love to hear your stories of how God has been with you and given you joy through the trials that you have faced.
I have a personal story that I have wanted to share with you, to help you understand where I am coming from. So here it is:
It was my high school graduation and my parents were reading a letter to me that they had written for me for my graduation day. As my mom read it, she encompassed some of the things that happened during my high school years. One of the things that she said was in my four years of high school, I had lost three of my grandparents. It was true, but I hadn’t realized the expanse of it. I was there with them, I cared for them, I spent time with them, and then I watched them go home to be with Jesus. That day, was the first time I really recognized how hard it hard been on me.
November 2011 – The end of November rolled around and my grandpa started having some doctor appointments. The week before Thanksgiving, he had a test to check for cancer. Cancer, that scary word that no one wants to hear… the word that I have heard before. Three of my grandparents have had cancer. One grandparent had cancer before I was even born and survived. Another had cancer and also survived the cancer, but the treatment was very hard on him. My other grandparent died from cancer. Cancer was not a word I wanted to hear. Then in the weeks before Christmas, we found out that my grandpa did indeed have cancer. Lung cancer. And we also found out that it was not curable. Since that time, my grandpa has been having treatments. While the cancer has not spread and the tumor has not grown, it has not shrunk.
This is where I am at. Dealing with another trial. And realizing that God is with me. It is not easy. Every day, every day, I have to wake up and trust God. I have to trust that He has the bigger plan. I do not have control of it, but He does. Each day, I again have to give my worries to Him. Again and again, I make the decision to find JOY every day. And I can because I have the joy of Christ’s salvation in me!