“Consider it pure joy, my brothers [and sisters], when you face trials of many kinds” (James 1:2).
“God – I don’t understand this trial. Why are you making me go through this?” Ever said that before? So have I, and so have believers through the ages. And we will again and again because life on this rock is hard sometimes. James says that as believers we are to greet every trial as a cause for joy. Excuse me? I don’t like trials and I’ll bet you don’t either. But we can have joy because our trials are not without purpose. God has a plan for every trial we face.
James follows up our key verse and gives us one reason for rejoicing in the face of trials: “Because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:3-4). We become physically stronger when we work our muscles, and any trainer will tell you that resistance training is the best strengthening exercises. Our faith becomes stronger when we have opportunities to exercise it as we strain against some resistant force – like a trial. How will you know that God is faithful if you never have opportunity to trust Him? Trials strengthen our faith and lead us into spiritual maturity.
Trials also accomplish God’s wider purposes. Joseph was hated by his brothers, sold into slavery, falsely accused of rape and unjustly imprisoned. But all of those very hard things occurred to position him to be in the right place at the right time – God’s place and God’s time. Joseph was used in Egypt to save thousands of lives, most importantly the life of his own people – the Jews, through whom our Savior, Jesus, would come. Through recent trials in our life, God moved us back home positioning us for many good blessings including placing me in a great job. Trials often become the catalyst for a God-ordained redirection into His good plan.
Our trials prepare us to minister to others. Paul said, “The Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4). I have benefited greatly from the wise counsel and comfort of others who have “been there, done that” and survived. Their testimony brought me hope and confidence in God and they gave good advice drawn from their own experience. Perhaps your trial today will give you wisdom to come along side someone in a similar situation one day and offer them hope.
Sometimes trials are a means of discipline in our lives. The psalmist declared, “Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I obey Your Word” (Psalm 119:67). Hebrews adds, “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it” (Hebrews 12:11). Trials that come as a consequence of our sinful and foolish behavior are meant to teach us valuable life lessons. Or as my mother used to say, “Bought lessons stay with you longer than taught lessons.” If you can connect your trial to your actions, take that as a means of discipline and training. God is being a good Father to you (Hebrews 12:5-10)
Most importantly, trials reveal God to the world. When Jesus and His disciples encountered a man who had been blind from birth, He declared that “This happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life” (John 9:3). When the Lord healed this man everyone knew it, and he became a living testimony to the power of God. You and I are the canvas on which God paints His own portrait for the world to see. Just as silver and gold show up most brilliantly against a dark backdrop, the power and glory of God is on vivid display in our trials. Our difficulties become the means by which God shows up and shows off.
Beloved, I don’t know what trial you are facing today, but I know that God has brought you to it for a good purpose. He is at work in your life, stretching your faith, moving you into His will, preparing you to minister to someone else, teaching you discipline, and making your life a display of His glory. Every trial is an opportunity for you and I to draw closer to God, to walk in faith, and to point others to Him. Yes, we can count it all joy when trials come, because we know God has a purpose and a plan – and we will be the richer for it.
“Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love Him” (James 1:12).