“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” James 1:2-3
We all face trials and circumstances in our life that we would describe as pure misery and pain, physically and emotionally. “Pure joy” is the last emotion that comes to our mind when we are beset by such trials. Yet not only James, but Peter and Paul give us the same exhortation; which leads me to believe that faith is more than what we believe, it is also how we feel. Very possibly how we feel, whether joy, or sorrow, or love, or hate, or optimism or pessimism is a greater test of our faith and its authenticity than any other test. But all too often we separate how we feel in difficult trials from what we profess to believe.
Paul and Silas as the story is told in Acts 16 had been stripped and the text says “severely” flogged. They were then put into stocks in the most inner portion of the jail. They should have been groaning as I was out loud every minute or so at times during the last two days of sickness. Instead they were praying out loud and singing hymns to God. I am sure this testimony when they should have been groaning in pain led to the jailer’s conversion after the earthquake that opened all the cell doors in the jail. Paul’s and Silas’ faith produced a completely unexpected emotion in the midst of pain.
The Bible doesn’t call us to stoicism in such trials, nor to giving into the emotion normally associated with pain or stress or depression; rather, it calls us to “pure joy.” To exhibit joy when the circumstances call for the opposite emotions of sorrow, pain, stress, or misery demonstrates that our faith is real and vibrant. It is not an easy test of our faith, but James says when we exhibit the emotion that verifies our faith, it is a test which produces maturity and completeness in us as true believers. Our first inclination in any trial will be to give into the emotion most often associated with such circumstances. That is when our faith must click into gear and our emotive response be what the world would never expect. Why? Because we know Who is with us in the trial; we know what He has promised; we know our end; and we know our faith is being tested and we want to pass the test! So, consider it pure joy whenever…..