“Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.”
To consider it all joy, my brethren, in the face of trying and difficult times is no easy task; in fact, it is quite counter-intuitive. Just as the original audience was in the midst of trials, they were undoubtedly feeling defeated and overwhelmed and beginning to exhibit a moral laxness and doctrinal confusion. With James aware of such a state of the scattered brethren, he penned this letter to communicate much-needed truths and exhortation; the same much-needed truth and exhortation that you need in the face of trials.
The word James used for “trial” refers to a test that challenges the integrity of one’s faith. It is a test that, once administered, reveals the innermost person of the one it challenges. Just as a jewelry store clerk tests the quality of gold, so God uses the tests in your life to assess the quality of your faith and character. But since most of us do not particularly enjoy testing or trials, how is it that we are to follow the command to “consider it all joy?” The only way that we can possibly “consider it all joy” whenever we face any number of trials that may hit us on a daily basis is to know that God has a purpose in testing– “the testing of your faith produces endurance.” We must know that an enduring faith is one that is strengthened and intentionally fashioned to withstand testing while one remains obedient to God. In the same way that a young soldier admires and respects the time-tested veteran, we as Christians should appropriately respect the character trait of an enduring faith and seriously seek to attain it. We will not consider our tests and trials “pure joy” without realizing the importance of what is at work through such trials and tests—namely, that God is developing our character and shaping us into the person He desires for us to be; Tests are the refining fire of life that purify our character and produce precious gems as a result.
I have often heard that the last thing you should pray for is patience; the reason being that instead of the finished work of patience, God will send you trials which produce said patience—the last thing any of us would beg for! But as I have been studying James and meditating on this verse, seeking to “consider it all joy,” I have certainly undergone myriad trials and testings. Just last night I experienced the perfect storm at work. Our restaurant subtly and rapidly got busy in such a way that made us feel unprepared. All at once I was completely overwhelmed with appetizers and entrees that needed to go out to tables but that were instead being neglected. My workspace was overran with busy bodies and left in complete disarray—opposite to the cleanliness and orderliness I prefer—and all of my backup supply of needed items was quickly dwindling. I felt that I was doing a horrible job at my job but that it couldn’t be any other way considering how the dice fell that night. Considering how I aim to be intentional about keeping a good witness at work, practicing love and gentleness to coworkers, working as hard and well as I possibly can, and continually walking by the Spirit, I was seriously tested when this perfect storm hit. My anger, unthankfulness, bitterness, and resentment were flaring up and in need of perpetual confession and forgiveness. All the while, while I was losing my cool, I was defeatedly laughing to myself and wondering aloud: “I know this test is meant to challenge and grow my faith and develop endurance, but how in the world am I supposed to be joyful about it when I feel like I am being utterly defeated and tormented??”
That may be how you feel in life right now—in the midst of trials that seem to have no purpose and are needlessly tormenting you. But that is not true. The testing of your faith is God’s ordained way of producing endurance and deepening your character and resolve. I think almost everyone would agree that having a good , time-tested, and reliable character is desirable—and that is exactly what God is doing when he stretches your faith. Continue to rely on Him in those tought moments and immediately remind yourself that each test has a purpose. Knowing the purposefulness of such testing will allow you to have joy in the fact that God—the God of the universe–is taking time to develop and grow you.
by Cameron Penrose