James gives us an extremely counterintuitive command from God:
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. James 1:2-4
How can we possibly find joy in the midst of pain, suffering, obstacles, challenges, failures, sickness, brokenness, injuries and problems? That doesn’t sound right at all. Shouldn’t he say something like, “Ask God, and He will immediately remove all your trials, pain and suffering so you can be happy again”? We would like that much better! (The Idol of Happiness)
The trial our family has been going through for these past 8 days, with our beautiful little kitten, Silver, going missing, is a very small trial in the scheme of things. Yes, it is painful for us – but there are many of you facing infinitely more difficult trials than this. But I believe that the process of approaching our trials is the same as we seek to honor, trust and obey God – whatever the trial may be. Sometimes these smaller trials give us the practice and strength we need to face later, more severe trials. How we handle the small trials is how we will handle the bigger trials.
“He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much.” Luke 16:10
Here are some things to ask ourselves as we face trials, problems, impossible difficulties, pain, sickness, financial burdens, relationship problems, work issues, church disagreements, family issues and every other kind of trial:
- Am I going to allow this trial take away the power and fruit of God’s Spirit in my life?
- How might God want to use this trial for His good purposes?
- What opportunities might God give me to model walking-by-faith to those around me (including my husband and children) during this time?
- How can I cling more tightly than ever to Christ? How can I spend more time in His Word and more time in prayer?
- What passages in Scripture might God want to use to speak to me during this time?
- Maybe God wants to use this painful situation to bring someone or several people or many many people to Christ or to deepen the faith of other people or myself? I want to be fully available for God to use me to speak through me to others.
- What does God desire me to learn here?
- Am I open to everything God might be speaking to me right now?
- What might God desire me to show and teach our children as we walk through this painful time?
Some ways I can respond in joy in a trial include:
- sing praise songs to God often and teach my children to turn to praising God at all times, including in times of suffering
- write out my thoughts, praises and thanksgiving to God in my prayer journal – focusing on the good gifts God has given to us, on His character, His sovereignty, His provision, His power and ability to do infinitely more than all we could ask, hope for or imagine
- focus on God’s extravagant love for me and for others
- focus on Philippians 4:4-8
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.
- remember that time is short, life is precious and each moment here is a gift that I do not want to waste or squander
- write out my requests to God and lay them at His feet
- study 1 Peter, Job, James 1 and all of the Scripture references to suffering and trials
- teach my children about the power of prayer
- learn from the ways that others minister to me that are a blessing and imitate the way they give comfort when I find others who are hurting
- learn from the ways that others attempt to minister to me that are hurtful and be sure to avoid those approaches when I see others who are hurting
- remember that we only really grow in times of trial, not when things are going well
- read about the importance of pruning a fruit tree and relating that to the blessings and benefits of spiritual pruning as God prunes my life and my heart
- allow my soul to rest in God’s peace instead of slipping into worry and anxiety – take time to be still before God and just listen and soak in His love
- allow myself to feel my emotions and feelings (not run from them), process them, and take them to God
- focus on keeping my eyes on Christ and on obeying Him
- talk, think, and pray about how God might use this trial for His glory and our ultimate good and the good of His kingdom and look forward with great anticipation to all He has planned through this time of suffering
- realize that it is in times of trial that I most realize exactly how desperately dependent I am on God and how little control I have in this life
- allow God to shape, mold and chisel my heart, refining my faith and motives
- be thankful for the opportunity for my faith to stretch and grow
- be thankful for the chance to practice resting in God’s love, sovereignty and peace in the midst of prolonged uncertainty
- anticipate the good purposes of God that will be birthed through this trial
- write down the good things I see happening from the trial and praise and thank God for them
- sympathize with and minister to others who are going through similar trials
- hold the results of the situation loosely in my hands, accept whatever answer God might choose to give and His timing, even if His ways don’t match my desires, trust that His wisdom is infinitely higher than my own
- look for opportunities to share the power, love and truth of God with others as I hurt (other people are a lot more open to our sharing about Christ when we are in the midst of trials and personal suffering – the pain and the trial gives much more weight and power to our words)
- be thankful for the chance to learn perseverance and to wait patiently as God causes my pain to do its holy work in my life, if it is His will for me to walk through this valley
- desire to not miss one drop of the spiritual blessings God desires for me to experience in the trial – the closeness to Him, the ability to learn more, the chance to deepen my faith, the love and care of friends and family, the learning God has in store, the growth that will come, the blessing I can be to others
ROMANS 8:18, 28-39 (These are PROMISES of God to those who love, trust, seek and obey Him and are filled with His Spirit)
I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.
What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
How have you experienced joy in the midst of a painful trial? What blessings did God pour out on you that you could never have experienced otherwise? How do you seek to approach trials with joy now?