Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. – James 1:2,3
If I’m going through a hard time, I want empathy. In this verse, the writer James skips the feels and gets right to the point. You’re suffering…consider it all joy. What? His bedside manner needs some work.
But James was giving truth which was needed to help his fellow believers deal with persecution and suffering as a religious minority. Of course he felt for them, but his empathy wasn’t what they needed most. It was eternal perspective. And so we have that gift now, to help us see the bigger picture.
We have choices to make every day in all kinds of trials. Do I believe that God is in control and that this testing is going to make me stronger? Or do I think there is no hope and purpose to this trial? If the former, then I can choose to turn this trial into an advantage for me – it will only make stronger and increase my faith in the end. If the latter, then I will eventually become angry at the misfortunes of life, and turn to self-protection and bitterness, except for when “good fortune” falls to me.
I’ve seen the joy of Christians in the persecution and hardships of life as a Christian minority in China, Egypt, and Vietnam. And also in places of economic and physical hardships like Uganda and Ghana. I know a woman who has led Bible studies in Syria amidst intense fighting in her city. All of these believers have been filled with more joy than I could imagine. In the US, our sights are often set so much on the physical conditions and circumstances we expect to be present. In many other places that illusion for happiness was shattered long ago, if it ever existed at all.
What is a hardship, trial, or maybe just lingering inconvenience, you can choose to “consider as joy”? If you’ve ever prayed for a deeper faith, this is part of the answer.