What are the things you count as joy in this life? You take a moment to absorb the question, and then the list of all the good gifts God has given you begins to roll through your head. His grace, his salvation, his word, my family, my friends, my work, my dreams, my successes, my memories, my laughter. These are the things we count as joy. “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing” (James 1: 2–4).
James is challenging us to add some things to our list of joys. Don’t forget to add temptations (or trials) to that list you’ve got rolling through your head. Make sure you’re counting that sickness and that never-ending pain in your back. Be sure to remember that bout of cancer, that surgery, and the death of your loved one. These too, are the things we are called to count as joy. How can that be? How can trials and joy be placed in the same category, when these words are complete opposites of each other?
God does not place trials in our lives without reason. Through these trials, he works in our hearts in unfathomably beautiful ways that we cannot even see, and will probably never understand until we cross over to glory’s side. These trials are means God uses to try our faith and to strengthen it in ways we could never accomplish alone. This is another way for him to deliver his love and his goodness to us. It has just been delivered in different packaging. His love and our own good are wrapped up inside that sickness, inside that surgery, inside that loss. Sitting down and slowly peeling away the layers of that trial helps us to reach an understanding of his love for us, and it brings to us patience, and faith, and peace. We are to respond to these trials with joy, not because of the pain of the trials, but because of what God is sovereignly working through them.
My father was able to receive God’s love and goodness packaged in a foot surgery that had him laid up for weeks. As I watched him sit down and begin to unwrap this trial to find the patience and peace underneath, I prayed that he would be able to count the process joy. The place in which we meet our trials is the place where peace comes from turmoil. It is the place where faith defeats fear. It is the place where, by the grace of God, Romans 8:28 is true. It is a place filled with the all-consuming assurance that not only does God govern all things, but he does so with our very best interests in mind. And it is the place where joy is born of suffering.