As I reflected on my OLW (one little word) and what I learned in February I was struck with this question, “Is joy synonymous with trials?”
A few times throughout the month I had the words of James in James 1:2-3 ringing in my ears. James writes, “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.”
Pure joy? Really. Really?
Maybe James meant, ‘Consider it pure joy when trials and testing are over.’ Because I don’t know about you but having joy in the midst of trials and persecution isn’t easy. Having joy when you’re being tested is somewhat of a foreign concept to me.
As I sat there reflecting on my OLW for 2016, I realized something about this verse – joy doesn’t come from the trials and testing it comes from the results of the trials and testing.
Read that verse again. “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.”
Notice that little word stuck in the middle of the verse – because. Consider it pure joy BECAUSE you know…. The word because brings meaning and purpose. We can consider it pure joy because there is meaning and purpose behind our trials, persecutions and troubles. Because the purpose is for our good. The meaning is because of what those hard things produce. They produce perseverance.
Perseverance is a good thing. The dictionary defines perseverance as
Not only is perseverance a steady persistence in spite of difficulties it is also the continuance in a state of grace to the end. In spite of difficulties we can persevere. And when we persevere we can have joy – pure joy.
Notice that second definition though…this one really encouraged me. Perseverance is continuance in a state of grace to the end, leading to eternal salvation. I don’t know about you but I want to continue in a state of grace. I want my whole life to be continuing in a state of grace. To continue in God’s favour…to continue in God’s riches… his goodwill…his forgiveness. I want me some of that. And the best part of that definition… “leading to eternal salvation.” Continuing in HIS grace leads to eternal salvation. Persevering in spite of difficulties and trials will one day lead to the eternal salvation I know is mine because of God’s grace. Here’s how I remember what grace is – God’s riches at Christ’s expense. Because of what Jesus Christ did on the cross I am able to receive God’s riches – his forgiveness. And because of that forgiveness I have eternal life. And well…that…that right there…that gives me pure joy.
So the words of James 1:2-3 have a little bit more meaning to me now. I can consider it pure joy when I go through difficult things BECAUSE I know what the result is. I know the result is perseverance and perseverance means I am continuing in God’s grace.
So does that mean I’m still going to go through tough things – yep. I’m going through tough things now. We can’t go around it, over it or under it. We have to go through it. But going though these tough things has taught me that I can find joy along the way…I can find joy in who HE is and what HE is doing in and through me. I can find joy in knowing what the end result of this tough stuff is. And in light of eternity…this tough stuff which seems huge now, is really only a tiny dot.
So, is joy synonymous with trials?