“My brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of any kind, consider it nothing but joy” (James 1:2).
Trials — nothing but joy?
When have you ever thought, “Oh Joy!” when you were going through a hard time? How is that even possible? What in the world does this even mean?
First, notice the Bible doesn’t say be happy whenever you face trials. That’s impossible. What we’re called to is to “consider it nothing but joy.” As you read the rest of the paragraph in James 1, it fills you in on why the Bible says that. I invite you to do exactly that. But I want to point out some other things about this verse.
Notice it says that we are to consider trials as joy. It’s not going to feel joyful. It’s not going to feel good. But that we are to take hold of our emotions and thoughts and we are to subject them to Christ, and because of Christ, consider our trials as nothing but joy.
Why is that?
That brings us to the second word I want to highlight: “whenever”.
Notice that the Bible assumes Christians will go through hard times. It doesn’t say, if. It says whenever. Hard times, trials, difficulties, hardships are going to happen.
Trials and hard times fall on all human beings. That is universal. But there is a huge difference for the Christian when trials happen. When a Christian goes through trials and hard times, Christians never endure that alone. For Christ is with us. God never promised we wouldn’t face storms. But God does promise that he would be our peace in the midst of the storm. We are never alone. God is always with us.
And, that makes all the difference in the world.
“Weeping may linger for the night, but joy comes in the morning” (Psalm 50:5b)
In the past six to seven months, I have been intentional about making sure these posts aren’t, “Hey, I know things are bad. But let’s all be happy anyway.”
You see, that’s not real. Sometimes crappy things happen and they feel crap. Sometimes the only response is weeping and mourning. Sometimes it is good to complain and whine.
That’s not only a psychological belief. This is quite biblical. Out of the 150 psalms more than a third of them are psalms of lament. Lamenting is necessary because life throws us so many lamentable circumstances. It would be absurd to tell someone who has lost a loved one, someone who has just been diagnosed with an incurable disease, someone who has just lost their job to be happy.
But here’s what we all need to know about lament. Lamenting is only the first step in the process of becoming healthy and whole. We must not stop at lament because if we stop at lament, that’s all you get. Lamenting is necessary to acknowledge the pain in our lives so that we can move on.
And that’s the thing, lament can’t help us move on. Only faith and hope in a good and sovereign God can do that. Lament is necessary to get the load off, to get everything off our chest. But, once we’ve done that, we still need to live and we must live well. And the only way to do that is to find our joy in a God who is good and a God who is sovereign.
I told you that more than a third of the psalms are psalms of lament. But did you know, that almost every one of the psalms of lament ends with praise? You see, that’s the life cycle of the person of faith.
So it’s okay to lament these days. They have been hard days. But once you’ve gotten that off your chest, turn your eyes and your faith upon the One who is good and the One who is sovereign.
“This occurred because the people of Israel had sinned against the LORD their God, who had brought them up out of the land of Egypt” (2 Kings 17:7)
These words come as an explanation of why Israel was defeated and deported by the Assyrians. For generations, God had been patiently waiting for Israel to turn from her wicked ways to follow God. But anyone who has ever read through 1 and 2 Kings knows that obedient, good kings were few.
Listen to how the bible describes the primary sin of Israel:
- “They worshipped other gods and walked in the customs of the nations whom the LORD drove out before the people of Israel” (2 Kings 17:7-8)
- “There they made offerings on all the high places, as the nations did whom the LORD carried away before them” (2 Kings 17:11)
- “They followed the nations that were around them” (2 Kings 17:15)
Did you see the pattern?
God chose Israel and set them apart to be different than all the other nations on earth. But in time, Israel became indistinguishable from other nations because instead of following and obeying God, they walked and followed what the other nations.
Little Church and Lakewoodgrace, God placed us in Lakewood and the neighboring cities so that God can bless the nations through his church. The church is a blessing when she is different, set apart from the other nations. It is a travesty when the church begins to model and mimic the culture she is in. For when the church conforms to the image of this world, instead of God changing the world through the church, the world has changed God’s church to its own image.
The church is God’s instrument to change the world. That’s the job – to change the world, not to become acclimated to the world.
So what is the solution? The answers are found in the Bible. Get into God’s word. We’ve all got the time. Spend 10-15 minutes a day in God’s word.
If you’ve never read the Bible before, go to http://www.youversion.com and find a devotional you can sign up for.
If you are new to the Bible, start with the Gospel according to John, Mark.
Be a blessing! Help God change the world.