James 1:2 My brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of any kind, consider it nothing but joy, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance; 4 and let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing.
At first this passage seems ridiculous. How am I supposed to experience joy when I’m facing trials or hardships? Absurd! Well, maybe not…
First, “joy” is not the same as being “happy”. Joy is one of the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5). It’s a state of being that grows from the inside out. Joy is not dependent on one’s external circumstances.
And remember that faith, particularly in James’ understanding, compels us to action. You may be familiar with this verse:
James 2:17 So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.
And of course, easy things don’t require faith in the way hard things do. Faith is feeling the fear and doing it anyway. It’s putting one foot in front of the other when you’d rather not – trusting that somehow God will meet you along the way. And as we do this over and over again, experiencing God’s enduring faithfulness, fear tends to recede and is replaced by something else… joy.
Joy is the sense of being in partnership with God for things that matter. Joy exhilarates, it motivates, it keeps us moving forward when our physical body wants to quit. Joy overrides logic that screams “This is a really bad idea!”. Joy is the thrill of seeing God’s mighty hand move on our behalf as we serve his purposes. Joy cannot be manufactured. It isn’t something you can order on Amazon or cook on a stovetop. It’s a gift of God’s grace as we move forward by faith. One day at a time.
Gracious God, we ask that you might give us faith today. Help us put one foot in front of the other even when we want to run away and hide. And as faith overcomes fear, help us to experience genuine “joy”. We pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.