Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
For a long time, I have imagined that I see everybody with a wheelbarrow. I have a wheelbarrow too. We push them around, and inside are our trials, temptations, fears, failures, disappointments, heartaches, and longings. These are the things that wake us and then keep us awake at three o’clock in the morning.
Living in this world places demands upon us, confronts us with challenges, and buffets us in ways that are painful and sorrowful. When we face these difficulties, often we are told to deny them, conceal them, shoo them away, or live above them. All the while, we’re tempted to resent our trials and grow more and more bitter.
The biblical perspective on hardship differs greatly from all of these options. James said that it is possible to know pure, complete joy in our trials. How can this possibly be? Receiving joy in trials seems to be an absolute contradiction. Most of 21st-century Western life is lived in such a way as to keep trials at bay. It seems obvious that the way to joy is to avoid trials.
James, however, tells us that the way in which we can “count it all joy” is not by moving ourselves into a citadel where troubles are absent but through having our attitudes to those troubles transformed. In saying “for you know,” he is reminding us that we have to bring our feelings under the rule of what we know to be true. And what do we know? That faith by itself does not develop perseverance. True faith is proven and strengthened when it is tested. The things we seek to avoid are the very things that make us.
We have to be honest about the trials we face. We are not yet in heaven, and so our faith is still being tested. It’s not revealed in some blissful, otherworldly experience but in the rough and tumble of everyday life. And the testing of true faith will always produce steadfastness. It will make us more like Jesus. It will make us more able to comfort others. Therefore, we can trust that through all our difficulties God will continue to fashion in us a faith that is perfect and complete. It is as we hold on to that promise that we are able to “count it all joy” as a trial looms ahead or we realize we are deep in one already. We are able to think, “I would not have chosen this path, but the Lord has, and He is going to use it to show me more of Himself and to make me more like Him.”
What is in your wheelbarrow today? They are things you would not have chosen. But what would change if you saw them as opportunities for your faith to be tested, strengthened, and perfected? That is the path to deeper, unconquerable joy.
Devotional material is taken from the Truth For Life daily devotional by Alistair Begg,