“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you to know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking in anything.” – James 1:2-4
As I think about Joy, our missional focus for July, I am reminded that the words ‘joy’ or ‘rejoice’ show up in the Bible over 400 times, whereas the word ‘happy’ is only used around 10 times.
Quite a significant differentiation.
Especially in verses like this one from the book of James. To ‘consider it pure joy when you face trials of many kinds’ is often an unthinkable challenge to me.
I’m very familiar with pain and struggle. We all are. The one thing that makes me glad about this passage is that it doesn’t say suffering should make us happy. Because for me at least, I am definitely not happy to be facing such ‘trials of many kinds’ on a daily basis.
I’ve learned through some reading that the Greek word being used in ‘consider it pure joy’ is ‘hegemoi’ which means ‘to lead’ or ‘to go before’. So not only are we challenged to respond to pain with joy, but we are told that our pain and struggle actually cause joy.
Well I’ll be honest, as a middle aged man I still don’t get that. Nor do I like it. In fact it’s one of the things that I complain to God about on a semi-regular basis when I pray. Why does joy have to come through pain? Couldn’t there be an easier way?
The only thing that brings me some comfort in the midst of my confusion on this is that Jesus understood suffering more than anyone. And He demonstrated ‘joy’ in the midst of excruciating pain while He was being crucified on a cross. (Hebrews 12:2) In fact, His pain seems to have caused Him ‘pure joy’.
Oh just to be able to emulate Jesus in that, even a tiny bit. What a challenge for me; for us!
Most certainly, the folks who come to us each day for support understand struggle better than most. This is yet another area where, if we’re being humble and paying attention, they become our teachers. We can learn from our friends on the street how to endure suffering with some joy. In fact, as James points out, we can learn how ‘trials’ actually create joy.
As we face this strange yet beautiful tension of joy and pain, let’s continue to strive to be ‘the hand of God in the heart of the city’.
I’m not gonna lie;
You often confuse me.
Life is hard.
Why does it have to be this way?
Why can’t you make it easier for me?
Why can’t you make it easier for others?
I guess you’re using me,
My trials of many kinds,
For your good.
Give me the strength,
To consider everything that comes my way,