Count it all joy when ye fall into divers’ temptations, James 1:2 (KJV). That’s what the Holy Spirit said to me in response to my grumbling. Well, I don’t converse with God in KJV, so the wording was more like, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy, (NLT).
There I was instantly convicted, but still very much not at peace. So, I did what made sense in the moment, and had a candid conversation with God. It went something like this.
Okay Lord, thanks for the reminder. But aren’t you asking a lot of me? How can I possibly count it all joy when all I feel is tired? Your instruction feels counterintuitive, especially in this numb state. I do not know how to be joyful right now, and since all I want to do is please you, there is some shame attached to this. Could you help me? Show me how to be joyful in what seems to be the longest wait of my life.
I laid my feelings at His feet and asked for wisdom. After all, His word says, if you need wisdom, ask our generous God and He will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking. James 1:5.
In true God fashion, He responds with His word, and flashed before my eyes an image of Jesus on the cross. At first, I thought, okay, but I am not Jesus. But then realized it wasn’t so much Him asking me to take on the burden of a sinful world like Jesus did. It was Him showing me the example of Jesus just before the cross; in Gethsemane, where Jesus probably felt the worst He ever had knowing what was to come. In that place of insufferable pain, Jesus said, Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done. Luke 22:42.
It is fair to assume that at this point, Jesus’ tired was tired. Then it clicked. It is not about finding joy in the situation, but in Him. It is not about looking for answers, but at THE answer. It is not about passive tolerance, but active perseverance – praying without ceasing, even if it’s just saying the name Jesus. Holding firm to what you believe, and having an expectation.
I saw something I hadn’t seen before. Jesus did not ignore the crushing feelings. He acknowledged, tabled, and then, did what we should all do, submitted them to the Father. For the joy that was set before him—sitting at the right hand of the Father, he endured the cross. Heb. 12:2. Who better to look to than the One who bore unfathomable pain for my sake? My feelings are not invalid. They are also not a surprise to Him. He has felt them too. He knows what it is like to go through it. Like me, He had to hold firmly to what He believed without wavering and endure while anticipating the fulfillment of God’s promises. Heb. 10:23.
Count it all joy is not a permit for pretense, but an invitation to behold Jesus. In doing so, we are, by His spirit able to evaluate the way we look at trials, and meditate on God’s promises instead of the problem.
The joy of the Lord is my strength is a sweet declaration experienced only when we abide. We often get caught up in waiting for the answers instead of what the Bible instructs; They that wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run and not be weary; and they shall walk and not faint. Isa. 40:31.
Whether you are in a walking, running or be still season, one thing remains true. God’s purpose always prevails. Joseph’s brothers sold him to slavery, yet He remained faithful to God. Years later, he held one of the highest positions in government. They jailed Paul and Silas for preaching the gospel. In chains, they prayed and worshipped. Suddenly an earthquake shook the prison. Their shackles fell off, the walls came down, and they were free to go. Lives were saved because of what God did with their trial; the jailer and his entire household! God told Noah to build an arc. It had never rained before. Years went by, and nothing happened. They mocked him for what he believed. That is, until the first drop of rain. Sarah was told she would have a child, and she laughed. Not when I have long passed my fertile prime, she thought. Soon, Isaac came knocking. They brutalized Jesus! He endured the cross and when He gave up His spirit, tore the veil of separation so that we can be in relationship with the Father.
In all these stories, the trials were plenty, but God’s purpose prevailed!
Trials are enjoyable, said no one ever! And yes, I know. Waiting sucks. But I can testify that God is good and all He does is good!
Count it all joy because the trials purify, and blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Mat.5:8. The trials are an opportunity for God to throw His weight around, so count it all joy. Because your latter days will be greater than the former, count it all joy. Haggai 2:9. Count it all joy because of the God of the universe. The one who does NOT CHANGE like shifting shadows says He will NEVER abandon you. Heb. 13:5
Can joy exist in hardship? Yes! When we consider the One who we have entrusted our lives. I cannot overstate the importance of knowing God’s character, and in having a community—support system that will knock on heaven’s door for you, pour encouragement into you, sit with you and so forth. It does you no good to suffer in silence. Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift his fellow. But woe is him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up. Eccl. 4:9.
In whatever season you are in, I pray the God of peace anchors you. I pray He blesses you with a joyful outlook as you trust Him to use your trials to work out His purposes. Your testimony will bring many to the heart of the Father. I pray His joy is your strength, and that, like Abraham, your hope remains, even in what seems like a hopeless situation. I pray my God equips you with everything you need to live in His will. When tempted to turn from Him, I pray you run towards Him instead. Bring your tired self to the foot of His throne and He will fill you, no cap.
Until next time, enjoy what is one of my favorite worship songs by Phil Wickham! I honestly can’t wait to see him live in concert soon.