Finding Joy in the Midst of Trials
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James 1:2–4 says, “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.” … Many Christians think once they’ve made that decision for Christ that everything will fall into place and life will be that proverbial bowl of cherries. And when trials and tough times come upon them or continue, they begin to question, “Why?” Wondering how they could possibly endure horrible circumstances and consider it joy.
Peter also tackles this subject of joy through trials. “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”1
In both of these passages, we see the instruction of what we should do. “Consider it pure joy…” and “in this you greatly rejoice…” Why? Because trials make us stronger. The James passage clearly states that the testing of our faith produces perseverance. And the Peter passage states that our faith, which is priceless, will be proved genuine and result in praise to God. But how? How can we find joy in the midst of all the junk, hardships, and painful circumstances?
First, we need to understand that the joy the world gives is not the same as the joy the Spirit gives. Worldly joy or happiness comes and goes as often as waves hitting the shore. It isn’t something you can cling to when you’ve lost a loved one or are facing bankruptcy. The Spirit’s joy or happiness, on the other hand, can stay with you for the long haul. … Even in the darkest days, when sadness, grief, and loss may threaten to overwhelm you, God’s joy is there.
Second, we need to understand that God’s joy cannot be taken away. Oh, you might think that it’s gone—that the hands of misfortune have snatched it from you—but it’s not. As believers, we are promised the constant presence of the Holy Spirit. We are promised His joy. Just as our salvation is assured through Jesus’ one-time sacrifice for all. Jesus’ [says] in John 15:11, “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” …
Third, we need to … grab onto God’s joy. Just like salvation, joy is a free and perfect gift from Him, and we must reach out and accept that gift. Grab onto it. Like a lifeline. Choose joy. Over bitterness, anger, and sorrow. Make a decision to choose joy every day. No matter what. …
This topic is very near and dear to my heart because it is a lesson I’m relearning each and every day. My daughter has a rare nerve disorder, she’s had brain surgery, and we’ve faced seemingly insurmountable obstacles, mountains of medical bills, bankruptcy, and foreclosure. But you know what I have discovered? God’s joy really is there. You can consider each trial joy; you can greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory even when you feel like you are face-first in the mud puddle. You can endure whatever circumstances are making you quake in your boots right now. If you have been saved through faith in Jesus Christ—you have all you need.
Grab onto God’s joy.—From gotquestions.org2
If I had to cry ten thousand tears, I would want joy to be the companion that carried me through. Joy would not deny the hardship, but would choose to acknowledge and face it no matter what the outcome.
I define joy as a spectrum of emotions, actions, and responses that includes gladness, cheer, happiness, merriment, delighting, dancing, shouting, exulting, rejoicing, laughing, playing, brightening, blessing and being blessed, taking pleasure in and being well pleased.
The Bible insists that joy is more than a feeling; it’s an action. We don’t just sense joy; we embody it by how we respond to the circumstances before us.
What is the genesis of this joy? I believe that, at its core, joy emanates from the abiding sense of God’s fierce love for us.
The tigerish love of God from which joy comes is foundational to faith. God’s love guards us, protects us, grows us, strengthens us, and compels us to walk in greater trust and holiness. This is no passive affection, but a feisty, fiery pledge to grow us into the fullness of Christ. When we embrace this love and cultivate an awareness of it, our hearts are filled with joy.
Such awareness strengthens our resolve that no matter the fight, we face it confident that God is with us and for us. When we fight back with joy, we no longer size the character of God according to our circumstances, but we size our circumstances according to the character of God and his great affection for us.
Practicing defiant joy is the declaration that the darkness does not and will not win. When we fight back with joy, we embrace our reality that is more real than what we’re enduring and we awaken to the deepest reality of our identity as beloved, joyful children of God. …
Joy is a far more dynamic, forceful weapon than most of us realize. The abiding sense that you are fiercely loved by God? That kind of joy empowers you to rise above any circumstance.—Margaret Feinberg3
“The joy of the Lord” is a state of mind and heart. It’s being thankful because you know that I have given you eternal life. To regain your joy in Me, look past your other concerns, and consider that despite all your challenges, you have already obtained the most valuable asset you could possibly gain—eternal life.
Because you know Me, regardless of whether you were a successful world leader or a homeless person, you would still have the joy of the Lord in your heart. You can keep this joy no matter what anybody does to you and no matter what circumstances you find yourself in.
To regain and keep the joy of the Lord in the forefront of your mind, realize that this time you are living in now is a short, temporary thing that “passes away.”4 But your spirit is saved and lives on forever.
That’s the joy of the Lord—to realize that you are a sinner, but that I have forgiven you; to realize that I love you unconditionally; to realize that I will never give up on you; to realize that at any point when you reach out and take My hand, I will immediately take your hand in Mine and guide you; to realize that you will enter eternal joy and heavenly bliss forever when this life is over.—Jesus, speaking in prophecy
“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”—Hebrews 12:2
Published on Anchor August 2019. Read by Reuben Ruchevsky. Music by John Listen.
1 1 Peter 1:6–9.
3 Margaret Feinberg, Fight Back with Joy (Worthy Publishing, 2015).
4 Matthew 24:35.