Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds. James 1, verse 2.
This is a repeating theme within the Christian faith: consider your trials to be joy. Rather than run away, Paul sang hymns after being beaten. Instead of being trampled by troubles, Peter used them as a way to give glory to God. Jesus tells us to turn the other cheek. Now, Jesus’ brother, James, tells us that we should consider adversity to be a joy.
It’s a very Michael Jordan kind of thing, ya know. You’ve seen them: the Tweets or commercials or motivational posters from Michael or other athletes telling us that it won’t be easy but it will be worth it. Nothing good ever comes easy, and hard work pays off in the end. Ditto our warriors, who come through literal hell so they can return home to those who love them. Find joy in adversity
The key is, of course, Jesus. Only faith in Jesus makes us able to consider trial to be a blessing. Only faith in Jesus ennobles the ignoble, making something contemptible into something beautiful. Have you ever really considered the brutality of the cross? It wasn’t just an executioner’s tool: it was an instrument of torture and humiliation and S L O W execution, designed to brutalize the punished while sending a warning to those who saw him. Jesus chose it. He could have run from it. He could have ended time and stopped the torture. He could have said “no further.” No, He chose it. He chose it to make noble what could not be made noble by anyone else.
He chose the brutality of the cross so that you and I could look at the small brutalities in our lives and consider them to be joy when compared to faith in Him who chose to love and die for us. Is it any wonder, then, that those who want to follow Him would consider it pure joy to suffer so that He might be increased? People of James’ time couldn’t have imagined the kinds of trials you and I face in our post-modern world…just as we have a hard time imagining theirs. Those people of long ago had the same 24 hours in every day that we have. They ate, clothed themselves, worked, purchased, cried, hurt, laughed, and every other emotion we ever had only they did it in the Roman world of antiquity instead of the Roman Empire-like world of today. And in it all, James – because of Jesus – tells us to consider everything that happens to us to be full of joy. Amazing.
Jesus of joy, I praise you for the joy You are in my life. Help me to see the trials today as small obstacles compared to your bottomless love.
1 What trials try to pull you away from following Jesus?
2 Do you see obstacles as impossible roadblocks or setbacks that you can overcome in faith?
3 When was the last time you found yourself in a tough spot but then found yourself contemplating the cross of Jesus instead?