Christina Patterson is a Bible teacher, author, and speaker passionate about empowering women in the love of Jesus Christ and the truth of God’s Word. Christina holds a Master’s degree in Theological Studies from Liberty University and is the founder of Beloved Women, a 501(c)3 non-profit providing resources and community for women to truly know who they are in Christ: His Beloved. She is also the author of several books, Bible Studies, and the creator of the LIFE Bible Journal that helps believers to intentionally study the Bible and apply God’s word to their everyday lives. Connect with Christina at www.belovedwomen.org.
One of the most significant challenges to our ability to experience the joy of the Lord often occurs when we face tests and trials in life. It’s hard to be joyful when nothing seems to go our way. However, as believers in Christ, joy is ours no matter our situation. So how do we maintain joy in the midst of trials?
We can find the answer to this question in James 1:2-5:
“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. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” (James 1:2-5 ESV)
James’ letter starts with him telling his brothers and sisters in Christ to count it all joy when they face trials of various kinds. There are two things we should take from this:
1. Trials will come.
2. Trials will be various.
First, James says when trials come not if they will come. James is very clear believers will face trials of many kinds. It should be expected. Not with fear but with joy. Now that seems conflicting because who rejoices over trials? But James tells us why and how we can do this.
Joy is not the absence of trials. If we think we have perfect lives or God promises us perfect lives then we lie to ourselves and any joy we experience is superficial. The truth is, we can choose joy even in the midst of trials. This is a good thing because the second lesson we learn from James is that the trails we face sometimes will be various. We see this to be true not only in our own lives but also in the lives of those who inspire us in the Bible:
Still, in the face of all this James tells us to count it all joy.
How do we count it all joy when we face trials like this?
James instructs us to know that the testing of our faith produces perseverance. Perseverance is the ability to wait and endure patiently. Why would the testing of our faith produce perseverance? Because our faith is in what we can’t see. Faith requires us to trust God even when we have no visual or physical reason to do so. So when trials come and test our faith, we have the choice to believe God or not. When we choose to believe God and see Him show Himself faithful, it encourages us to keep the faith next time that we face a trial.
We learn to be patient, endure, and preserve because we know God will keep His promises. If we want to maintain our joy through testing and trials there are a few things we must know:
First, we know that there is a purpose for our trials. When we know and understand that there is a reason for our trials, we don’t lose our trust in God thinking He would have us go through testing for no reason. James tells us the purpose of our trials is perseverance. Knowing God does not cause our trials, but will use them for our good and His glory, helps us to better maintain our joy in Him.
Second, we know that God’s truth is greater than our feelings.
We must know that God will use our trials to grow us, not destroy us. The purpose of our trials are not to weaken us but to strengthen our faith. In 2 Corinthians 1:8-9 Paul says this about the trials he faced:
“We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.” (2 Corinthians 1:8-9 NIV)
One of the reasons for our trials is to mature us to have a persevering faith, but there’s one thing we must do for that to happen. We have to let it. James tells us to:
“Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:4 NIV)
Trials build endurance, but we have to let them. You have to let perseverance complete its work. Don’t skip the test and don’t rush the trial.
David says “though I walk through the valley” (Psalm 23:4), but we want to run. We want to rush, but maturity cannot be rushed, especially spiritual maturity.
There are a few reasons why we want to rush this process:
First, we think we are already mature, but we can’t grow if we don’t realize we need too. There is nothing like a test to show you how little patience you have and how much you need to grow. God shows us our weakness and shortcomings, not to leave us there, but to grow us.
The second reason it’s challenging to let perseverance complete its work is that the process just hurts. We run from pain, but God uses it to grow us. We can endure when we are more focused on the results of our enduring than the pain itself. Maturity takes pressure.
Growth doesn’t happen when nothing happens. Even seeds have to break before they can start to grow. There is a necessary season of breaking, darkness, and making its way through obstacles that have to happen before growth can even be seen.
The last reason it is challenging to let perseverance finish its work is that we want instant gratification. Maturity takes time. No one is immediately spiritually mature once they get saved. Immediately we are justified by God, but then we also start a process called sanctification, by which God helps to mold and develop us to be and spiritually look more like His Son Jesus Christ. And that process takes time, so we need to let it.
Here’s what we learn about the mature Christian who lets perseverance complete its work: this person still has joy even in the midst of trials. Where the spiritually immature may find themselves in despair and hopelessness, the mature may be hurting, uncomfortable, and even in pain but they still have joy knowing God loves them, He is with them, and everything is working out for their good and God’s glory. So no matter what happens they can count it all joy.
Now I’d love to hear from you, Beloved. What does considering it pure joy look like in your life? I look forward to chatting in the comments.
Join the Beloved Women online Bible Study on Joy!
The book of Philippians teaches us how to experience the joy of the Lord that is ours in Christ. Join me for our next online Bible Study, “Relentless Joy,” as we go through the book of Philippians to learn how to live a joyful life. Sign up now for this free video Bible study series by visiting https://www.belovedwomen.org/relentless-joy today!