Too often, I live as if circumstances dictate joy.
Here’s a prime example: recently, my husband Brad and I were praying before Community Group and he surprised me by asking God to send us with joy. My initial thought was ugly: “Ugh. Joy? I’m not feeling joy right now.” Realizing this, I knew I had let that day’s circumstances dictate my joy, not the Lord. So, I repented and joined Brad in asking the Spirit to bear joy in us.
I think it’s worth noting that when I repented, I didn’t “feel joy” immediately afterward… and I think that’s okay. Joy isn’t just a feeling. It is a work of God in us. It is the gladness of heart in knowing God (1 Peter 1:8), abiding in Christ (John 15:5), and being filled with the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:22). And sometimes, it will involve praying and waiting with expectancy for God to make good on His promise for joy.
James says we should consider it all joy whenever we face trials of many kinds because we know that the testing of our faith produces perseverance (James 1:2-3). Trials, instead of hindering our faith, can actually increase our joy. Joy in knowing God is producing lasting fruit like perseverance. Joy in knowing God is working every trial together for our good and His glory (Romans 8:28). Joy in knowing God has purpose in every trial to conform us into Christlikeness (2 Cor. 4).
James goes on to say we ought to let perseverance finish its full work so that we may be mature and complete, not lacking anything (James 1:4). This reminds me of a professional failure of epic proportions of mine. Long story short, I was held responsible for a client’s technological error in an extremely sensitive project launch; I lost their business. After this happened, a dear friend of mine reminded me of James 1:2-3 and it was like she gave me the exact words I didn’t know I needed.
As a result of meditating on James’ counsel, I was surprised to find sincere gratitude and joy in my heart as I shared about my work failure with my community. Even a year prior, something like this would have shaken me. Yet by the mercy of God, instead of grumbling and wallowing, I found myself saying things like, “You know, it’s good for me to fail. This is good for my maturity. It’s good for my growth in trusting God. It’s good for God to smash work idols. It’s good for me to find my righteousness in the work of His hands, not mine. It’s good for me to surrender to God as the just Just and Provider.”
The world tells us when we face trials to essentially do one of three things: ignore it, get even, or grumble.
But James says we should consider it.
Considering takes active thinking and deliberate choices as a consequence. James is implying we have a responsibility in how we respond to trials – however big or small. Joy declares victory over every trial: our God reigns supreme. In trials of many kinds, we can count even the worst of them with joy because it is firm in Christ.
Hebrews 12:2 says that for the joy set before Him (the joy of salvation – God and man reconciled), Jesus endured the cross’ scorn and shame. Rising from the grave, Jesus finished the work of purchasing life in God for us – a life of everlasting joy when we fix our eyes on Him (Hebrews 12:3). Jesus purchased joy on our behalf. Therefore, we can face anything with joy.
Is our joy truly in Jesus? Are we regularly experiencing joy by being filled with the Spirit, or are we more often experiencing temporary happiness? What trials are we in right now in which we can start considering all joy?
Sisters, my prayer for us is this: May the God of hope fill us with all joy and peace as we trust in him, so that we may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit (Rom. 15:13).