Originally published Tuesday, 21 June 2016.
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. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. James 1:2-5
As Christians we can easily slip into the lie of "life gets easier as we mature" in Christ. After all, it's the good work of Christ who is completes His work in those who walk by faith. And on top of the work of completion we are encouraged to be brave through all the changes. And one more step...count it all joy.
No deeper truth can be said and bears repeating ...life is full-on hard! We already know about hardship, troubles, afflictions, and understand those aren't easy. Life is full of pain, heartaches, and loss of life. Living as a believer, it is often harder to have faith and hope in the midst of doing life, especially when hard problems hit. So how can you love this life while embracing conflict, hardship, and adversity? How about when you are in the heat of the battle of shame, pain, and messy habitual sins? Do those situations have to count too?
By faith, we are encouraged to ask God for everything we need. Yes, we ask for strength to make it through crisis after crisis, strength and endurance to make it out alive. We ask God for pain to subside, for healing, and even ask for miracles. How many times though do you consider trials with joy? How is joy really possible when bravely embracing hardships, adversity and problems?
I'm still counting how this works, but I do know life becomes easier with joy.
Friends, it's taken me years to figure out a simple truth. When we attack each day with joy, hard things are easy, painful things fade, and our strength is renewed without asking. To count your joy, consider everything in your day a gift of joy and watch your joy unfold. Joy is second to God's love in how the Spirit helps us.
Love generates joy. Did you catch it? Joy helps in making life's adversity embraceable. Joy helps us live brave. Joy helps us make hard days count.
I remember the funeral of my brother-in-law. It was a sad occasion due to suicide. Like most families we didn't understand why. We were all heart-broken with grief. My husband and I were leaving the service, and when it came time to say good-bye to his wife, I was at a loss for words. All of a sudden, my father-in-law stood up to do the same and his pants dropped to his ankles. We all stood, the whole family, stood with jaws dropped when this happened. We weren't sure what to do, given the occasion.
Enter my mother-in-law's next simple statement, "Well, Lloyd, where is your belt?" We all burst with laughter at his forgetfulness. It was a perfect tension-breaker and now a joy-bringing memory to a very sad moment in our family's timeline.
Joy is powerful. It helps us navigate through adversity, trials, and hardship. In using God-given joy, it gives purpose to our pain, helps in our letting go, and heals our hurts. The joy God bears in our lives enables us to live bravely through each tough occasion. His love generates this kind of strengthing joy which reaches all the way to Heaven and back. That’s joy you CAN count on!
No matter what hard thing you are looking at, try to hold to joy which only God can give. Receive it - no it won't make sense, but it will surprise you in how easy it is. This kind of joy will lift your burdens and warm God's heart. He can see you smiling right now too!