“Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.” James 1:2-4 NLT
When I called the dermatological clinic to get an appointment for my wife, I was told there were no more appointments and we need to go down to the walk-in clinic and be prepared to wait for two hours or so. So we went down in the morning. While waiting in the clinic for registration, James 1:2-3 came to mind as one of our small group members had also been admitted to hospital for a complication following a biopsy of the lung.
To my utter surprise, my wife was called to see the doctor just 20 minutes after registration! When we returned home, I read the Upper Room devotional as I did not had time to read it in the morning. I felt uplifted when I found the scripture reading in the devotional was from James 1:1-12! It was God’s Rhema to me – to find joy in the problems we face in our daily lives.
Pain and problems are inevitable in our fallen world. Jesus came to show us the secret of joy and peace in the midst of the storms of life. Jesus came to show us the secret of finding joy in the midst of our trials and tribulations which can be expressed as follows:
Joy = Suffering x Acceptance
When we are unable to accept our suffering, it is not possible to have joy. Our joy is determined by our attitude towards suffering. And our attitude depends on our attachment to the outcomes of our situations. Jesus came to demonstrate the power of acceptance when he died on the cross with much pain and suffering. We can therefore cultivate acceptance by keeping our eyes on Jesus:
“We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne.” Hebrews 12:2 NLT
The bad news is that there will be pain, suffering and death in our broken and fallen world. The good news is that we have victory over pain, suffering and death through the Good News of Christ. The apostle Paul was worried for the followers of Christ in Thessalonica and sent Timothy to visit them:
“He is our brother and God’s co-worker in proclaiming the Good News of Christ. We sent him to strengthen you, to encourage you in your faith, and to keep you from being shaken by the troubles you were going through. But you know that we are destined for such troubles. Even while we were with you, we warned you that troubles would soon come—and they did, as you well know.” 1 Thessalonians 3:2-4 NLT
The followers of Christ in Thessalonica had received the message with joy from the Holy Spirit in spite of the severe suffering it brought them (1 Thessalonians 1:6 NLT). Their faith was not rooted in blessings but in the power of love that is mediated through the resurrection of Christ. The example of the Thessalonian followers of Christ is an inspiration to all of us.
Faith is the confidence in what we hope for and the assurance about what we do not see (Hebrews 11:1). This is what we received from God when we offer our lives as a living sacrifice to God. Trust is our response of faith to commit our lives in total dependence on the power of love to overcome the evil that is present in the world and in our lives.
To find joy in difficult circumstances as well as in the mundane circumstances of our lives, we need to change our ego centric attitude in life to a Christ centered attitude. As we do so, the trials and tribulations in life become opportunities to grow our roots of faith deeper into the soil of God’s love. And our joy is multiplied by the degree of our acceptance of God’s good and perfect will in the face of suffering and death. Then we can truly sing:
“Joy to the world! the Lord is come:
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare Him room,
And Heaven and nature sing.”