“My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” (James 1:2-4, NKJV)
When James tells us we are to “count it all joy” when trouble comes our way, it seems a difficult thing to do. Trouble and joy just don’t seem like a matched pair. It’s easier to moan and complain about the hard things life brings our way. But how do we find joy?
When Saul the persecutor became Paul the apostle, he probably had little idea what the years ahead would hold. The persecutor became the persecuted, and he endured many other hardships as well. During his ministry, he was beaten, stoned, left for dead, shipwrecked, and faced numerous dangers in his travels. He endured hunger and thirst, cold and nakedness. He wrote quite a list in II Corinthians 11:24-31—and this was well before the end of his life. I’m sure he could have expanded that list of trials later.
Paul was human, just like you and me, so I’m sure he must have endured times of discouragement, weariness, and doubt. But he also had a resiliency that carried him through years of missionary travels, persecutions, false brothers, and the weariness that comes from giving everything you have to see the gospel advance. Regardless of the hardships he endured, Paul was able to recognize that God used even the bad things that happened to him to advance the gospel. Even his prison guards noticed, and other believers became bolder in their witness.
“I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.” (Philippians 1:12-14, ESV)
What was Paul’s secret to “keeping on keeping on”? His faith in God’s character! He knew he could rely on God when things were at their worst. If Paul was optimistic, it was not because of his own abilities but from observing how God worked through each situation.
You may think, “Well, I’m not the apostle Paul. I don’t know how to find joy when life knocks me sideways.” Let’s examine some things we can do that will help us find that desired joy.
- Trust in God’s ability to help you. If we are trying to do it through our own efforts, we aren’t allowing Him to give us His strength. “Seek the LORD and his strength; seek his presence continually” (I Chronicles 16:11, ESV).
- Ignore negative voices. Don’t let the negativity of others pull you down. Focus on God’s voice to lead you. “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:27, ESV).
- Surround yourself with those who will support you. “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity” (Proverbs 17:17, ESV).
- Practice gratitude. Consider keeping a gratitude journal. It’s a great way to remember the many times God intervened on your behalf. “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (I Thessalonians 5:18, ESV).
- Remember that this season of trouble is limited. I like the New Living Translation of II Corinthians 4:17. It says, “For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever!” You will get through this season.
Yes, we can find joy in the midst of tribulation.
Lord, thank You for the assurance that I will never have to face the hard things in life alone. You walk beside me and allow me to lean on Your strength. I trust in Your character because You are completely trustworthy.