I used to think most of the Christian walk was about “toughing it out” — enduring suffering, living with disappointment and struggling through hardship. But I have realized something very precious, especially in the last year, as God has been teaching me and training me.
James 1:2-4 says, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (NIV)
Suffering has purpose. Understanding this changes how we feel about undergoing it.
Having joy because of trials in this way bears so much fruit. It actually leads us to a place where we are truly mature in Christ and lack nothing. Joy fills in the gaps.
In 2 Corinthians 8:2 , Paul writes, “In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity.” (NIV)
Joy doesn’t change circumstances, but it does change our attitude toward what we face. Joy is a fruit of the Spirit. It is part of the Holy Spirit’s character (see Galatians 5:22). He loves to bring “the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair” (Isaiah 61:3).
What about you? Are you a carrier of joy or misery? How would people describe you? Would they say you lighten the atmosphere around you, or do you add to the heaviness? Being joyful is not the same as being happy. Happiness depends on outward things, but joy wells up from within.
All of us can feel relief and contentment when we have come through a hard time. We can rejoice and praise God for how He has brought us out of it. But the challenge is, how joyful are we in the midst of it?