Why is this happening to me? What did I do to deserve this?
Often these are the questions that come to mind when faced with adversity. Consumed with resentment and self-pity, we resist God and think He is punishing us for something we did or didn’t do. However, as blood bought children of God, according to James 1:2, we should embrace trials with joy, not doubts and questions. How can troubles and trials that cause heartache and pain bring joy to our life? Before we can answer this question, we must understand joy. What is joy? Where does it come from?
My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations [trials];
– James 1:2
Joy is not happiness.
Although used interchangeably in our society, joy and happiness mean totally different things. Happiness is temporary and depends entirely on our circumstances and feelings. We are happy when we feel good and things are going well for us. Trials do not make us happy! The joy of the Lord, on the other hand, is eternal and supersedes circumstances because it is nurtured by God Himself. Joy is not only available during a trial, but is also enriched by each trial. Regardless of our struggles, God remains the very source and object of true joy! God delivers joy to meet our needs, but He also becomes our joy. Jesus faced the epitome of all trials, “…endured the cross, despising the shame.” Hebrews 12:2 tells us, and He did it all “… for the joy that was set before Him.”
2 Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.
– Hebrews 12:2-3
Certainly, Jesus was not happy when forsaken by family and friends. He was not happy when he was unjustly treated like a criminal and brutally tortured. If the source of Jesus’ strength had been anything less than the pure joy of the Lord, He would have protested while His body convulsed with pain under the load of the cross. Instead, He declared to God in Luke 22:42, “…not my will, but thine, be done;” Jesus was not relying on happiness, but something much more substantial—the joy of the Lord. If Jesus could take joy in suffering on a cross, then “…consider him…lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.” Surely we can take joy in whatever trial we must face on this earth. Whatever evil is committed against us, if family and friends forsake us, when all earthly pleasures fail us, we can still have the joy of the Lord!
God has a purpose for each trial.
God is omnipresent: everywhere, watching over my life and your life. God is omnipotent: all powerful, able to start and stop any trial we are facing. Everything that occurs in our lives must pass through our Heavenly Father first. Even the devil, and all his devices, is subject to God’s authority.
Many times He allows things to happen to us for our own good, but why? What good can come out of this cancer diagnosis? How can this family crisis draw me closer to God? What is God going to do through this financial crisis? How is God going to work this mess out?
3 Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. 4 But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.
– James 1:3-4
Depending on how we react to the situation, every trial we face is a unique opportunity to allow God to work in our lives. We know from James 1:3-4, if we face the trial with joy, then patience will follow. Patience is the ability or strength to withstand discomfort, pain, stress, or any adverse condition without complaint, annoyance, or loss of temper.
Ultimately, through all of this, our lives will mature and develop to the point that we lack nothing. With each trial, we become more, and more like Christ!
For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. 7 If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? 8 But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons. 9 Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live? 10 For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness. 11 Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.
– Hebrews 12:6-11
If you find yourself bombarded with one crisis after another, take heart and rejoice in knowing that trials are a confirmation that we are, in fact, God’s children, “…if ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons…” (Hebrews 12:7). As a loving father corrects and guides his children, God chastens us for our own good so “…that we might be partakers of His holiness…” (Hebrews 12:10). Therefore, trials provide a framework for God to mold and make us into the image of His Son, Jesus Christ. If we endure a trial, according to Hebrews 12:10-11, not only will we be partakers of Christ’s holiness, but the trial will yield the peaceable fruit of righteousness. This is the ultimate goal!
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