Counting It All Joy
“My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience” (v. 2).
One of the hardest lessons we Christians have to learn is how to be joyful in the midst of pain and suffering. Remember, James tells us to count it all joy when we enter into suffering and affliction. What does he mean when he says, “Count it all joy”? The concept here is the idea of reckoning of considering. We are to consider what we are going through as a matter of joy, not because the thing itself is something that is pleasurable, but because tribulation works patience within us. There is at least one good thing happening to us in the midst of pain and suffering. We are therefore called to think about our circumstances in that light. Our suffering is not an exercise in futility. God has a purpose, and that purpose is always good. We can count all things joy because God is working in all situations, even the most painful, for our sanctification and ultimate glorification.
In order to count earthly afflictions joy, we have to be able to take into account the future. Sometimes a Christian’s hope for heaven is ridiculed in our day. The lost mock those whose lives are characterized by hope. But sometimes this is all we have. When our lives are filled with sorrow and grief, we must be able to look to the future—to heaven—to find the joy that can soothe our troubled souls. Our joy must be based on looking to God and to the inheritance we will receive in heaven. This is exactly what Jesus did. He was able to endure the cross because of the joy that was set before Him (Heb. 12:2). We, too, must realize that the suffering we endure in this life cannot compare with the joy that is laid up for us in heaven.
But in the moment, it is hard to keep our eyes fixed on the future. When we are in the midst of the trial, we can easily become consumed by it. Paul understood this. He who suffered many trials knew what it meant to feel pain. But he held on to the hope that this suffering is only momentary, that in a short while we will reach our final destination where “there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away” (Rev. 21:4). During those times when sorrow is at its peak, we must remember that we are strangers here, that the labor pains only last for a little while and joy will come in the morning. That is our hope. That is what enables us to count it all joy as we endure suffering and pain.
To be able to count it all joy, you have to be able to trust God. Do you have that kind of confidence in the sovereignty and goodness of God? Do you look to Christ in the midst of your sufferings, or do you tend to focus on the present situation until you are consumed by it? Ask God to help you rejoice in Him and to count it all joy.
First published in Tabletalk Magazine, an outreach of Ligonier.