When our faith is strong, our joy is complete — and we find ourselves satisfied in a God who generously gives all we need.
Consider it all joy my brethren when you encounter various trials knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. James 1:2-3 (NASB)
When I read consider it all joy when you encounter various trials, my first thought is, That’s impossible! Yet, there’s a tugging at my heart and a desire to be that person who is able to face the painful and disappointing circumstances of life with joy rather than fear. I imagine Jesus’ new followers must have felt the same way when they received this letter from the Apostle James. These Jewish believers had to leave their home or face the possibly of losing their lives for following Jesus.
James specifically uses the word encounter in this verse. The meaning of this Greek word is “to fall into or to meet with hazardous or negative situation by accident.” Have you ever encountered a painful circumstance and wondered how you got in that situation? Or have you found the reality of your life is not at all what you dreamed it would be? Perhaps you found yourself looking for a verse in the Bible about hope, but instead, you came across the words from James noted above. Did the hair on the back of your neck stand up at the thought of being joyful in the midst of heartache? I believe if we had the opportunity to ask James why he wrote those words, he would encourage us not to focus on the certainty of encountering trials. Instead, I believe he would tell us to read his entire letter and pause to notice the words faith, endurance, and the phrase lacking in nothing.
I studied the first chapter of James and asked God to show me hope and truth. I encourage you to do the same. Clearly the new Jewish believers were scared, confused, and lonely. Maybe they had watched a family member die for the cause of Jesus. I feel sure they missed their home and longed to live in Jerusalem again. And James certainly did not have a satisfactory answer as to why they were encountering trials. And we may never know why we encounter our own trials.
But to be honest, don’t most of us ask why more than we ask God for endurance and faith to withstand the trial before us? I believe this is exactly why James highlighted the only thing that would give them the strength to endure—their faith. Not faith as found when someone says, "Just have faith and God will change your circumstances."
James did not imply he knew the outcome of their trials, but he assured them trials would provide opportunity to strengthen their faith in God. James was very aware the Jew reading his letter might face persecution and possibly death. When we read these verses in the context they were written, we are able to see it wasn’t a matter of if they would face various trials, but when. James was lovingly instructing his readers how to endure to the end.
Are you facing an unexpected situation and have no idea how it’s going to turn out? What do you think would help you get through it? Do you need wisdom to make a tough decision or endurance to withstand when you feel so weak you’re not sure you can stand? Do you need a deeper understanding of the God who allowed this circumstance to come into your life? Do you need stronger faith to trust God?
I need faith and wisdom more than I need my circumstances to change. Don’t get me wrong, I’m the first to admit I’d like a few things to change—and I assume you do as well—but some things are just out of our control. This is why we must ask God for wisdom, strength, and faith to trust Him even when we don’t understand the why behind our circumstances. When our faith is strong our joy is complete, and we find ourselves satisfied in a God who generously gives all we need. Chew on this truth today!
Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight." How difficult is it for you to trust the Lord? What steps can you identify that you need to take in order for God to guide you?
Read and meditate on James 1. Write down the truth and encouragement you find as you read.