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How Can I Seriously Count Painful Times As Joy?

I was planning to write this post a few hours before my father-in-law suddenly died August 4th. It is the sequel to my post from last week about Is Real Joy Possible for Me?  I am honored to share these precious spiritual treasures with you – as it so happens – from the midst of a significant trial in my own life.

We live in a fallen world and we all face many kinds of trials in our lives. None of us are exempt. I may not have much control over what trials come my way. But I do have control over my response and attitude.

I am so excited to share some amazing truths with you – truths that will radically change your life and perspective if you are willing to embrace them.

JOY IS MY CHOICE IN TIMES OF TRIAL

I can choose to depend on God’s wisdom, His strength, His sovereignty, His power, His goodness, His love, and His vision. I can choose to trust Him and His Word. I can willingly yield to His Lordship and let Him lead me.

This takes the power of the Holy Spirit. It takes close fellowship with God. It takes practice. It is a discipline we can learn as believers with God’s help. I can begin to see hard times as spiritual tests and opportunities for growth.

When I face difficulties, the Holy Spirit empowers me (if I belong to Christ) to choose to respond in:

  • Faith
    • I don’t know the answers, but I trust that God knows what to do and that He will lead me through this. (Isa. 30:21, Ps. 23)
    • I don’t have the wisdom to solve this dilemma, but I trust that God has wisdom and power in this situation. (Isa. 40:28)
    • I know God is sovereign, good, and loving even now and even over this. (Jer. 29:11-13)
  • Joy
    • I know that God promises to use this specific trial to help me grow in my faith and in spiritual maturity, and that brings me great joy. (James 1:2-4)
    • Jesus invites me to ask for things I genuinely need – according to His will – and to receive from God, that my joy might be full. (John 16:24)
    • A joyful heart is good medicine. (Prov. 17:22)
    • God calls me to rejoice in Him at all times. (Phil. 4:4)
    • I have so many reasons for joy in Christ, even in the midst of my trials (the following is excerpted from www.gotquestions.org).
      • The joy of my salvation.
      • The joy of anticipating God’s deliverance.
      • The joy of God’s presence.
      • The joy of spiritual maturity.
  • Anticipation
    • I can’t wait to see how God will use this awful situation to create something beautiful and good in my life and bring glory to Himself!
    • I want to go much deeper with the Lord! (Eph. 1:15-23)
    • God wants to use hardships to help conform me to the image of Christ Jesus. (Rom. 8:29)
  • An Open Heart
    • What does God want me to learn and how does He want to help me to grow in this painful trial?
  • Spiritual Treasure Seeking
    • It is only in the dark caves where people can find diamonds, rubies, emeralds, and gems physically, it is similar spiritually. The greatest treasures are found in the darkest times, if we are willing to look.
    • I don’t want to miss any of the gifts He has for me here.
  • Prayer
    • Lord, I give this situation to You. You see all that I am going through and my suffering. I trust You are with me. I trust You are sovereign and good.
    • I invite Your provision!
    • How should I pray about this situation?
    • Not my will but Yours be done! (Luke 22:42)
    • Is there anyone I should ask to pray with me/for me about this?
    • What step do you want me to take next?
    • I only want to see Your greatest glory!
    • I want Your perfect will.
    • What miracles do You want to do here?
  • Peace
    • In the world, I will have tribulation. But Jesus promises to give me His peace. (John 16:33)
    • God will keep me in His perfect peace when I trust Him and my mind is focused on Him. (Isaiah 26:3)
    • I can lay all of my concerns, worries, and fears before God because He cares for me. (Phil. 4:6)
  • Assurance 
    • He is going to make a way for me to make it through this. (Isa. 43:16-19)
    • He is with me and He will never leave or forsake me. (Deut. 31:8)
  • Rest
    • Jesus invites me to come to Him when I am weary and He will give me rest for my soul. (Matt. 11:28-30)
  • Strength 
    • His grace is sufficient for me, for His power is made perfect in my weakness. (2 Cor. 12:9)
    • God promises I can do all that He calls me to do through the power of Christ in me. (Phil. 4:12-13)
    • The Lord is my strength and my song. (Ex. 15:2)
  • Thanksgiving
    • I can look for the blessings and provision of God in the midst of my trial. (1 Thess. 5:18)
    • I can give thanks to the Lord for He is good! (Ps. 107:1)
  • Focusing on Positive Things 
    • I can focus on the good things, the Philippians 4:8 things, because whatever I focus on tends to grow in my field of spiritual vision.
  • Receptivity to His promises
    • I learn about God’s promises theoretically as I read His Word. But it is during a crisis that I actually get to rest the weight of my life on God’s promises and experience them in reality.
    • I want to keep all of God’s promises in my heart and stand firmly on them and His Word.
  • Ministry
    • How does God want me to shine for Christ in the midst of this yucky situation? (Phil. 2:14-16, Matt. 5:13-16)
    • How might He want me to be an example, blessing, and witness to others? (1 Cor. 7:16, Acts 1:8)
    • How does God desire me to overcome evil with good here? (Rom. 12:17-21)
    • I can rest assured that God will use my pain – and the comfort He brings to me – to bring comfort, healing, salvation, and to strengthen the faith to others in the future when they hear about what He did for me and how I responded. (2 Cor. 1:6)

This doesn’t mean I won’t have feelings of sadness. I will! I am human, after all. I will have sadness and grief, at times. I will feel frustration and anger, at times. I will hurt. I will have emotions. It is important to feel my emotions and to identify them. But I don’t have to be a slave to my emotions. And I don’t have to be a slave to my circumstances.

Things may look hopeless from a human perspective…

Thankfully, I don’t have to see from a mere human perspective if I know Jesus!

THE BLESSINGS OF TRIALS

Scripture is full of encouragement about the spiritual benefits of our trials as followers of Christ. Here are a few of the blessings my trials can produce in my life as I trust God:

  • Lamentations 1
    • Suffering for sin may help me repent of sin and return to God if I have strayed.
    • God disciplines those who belong to Him for our good, so that we will turn from death and embrace His Life.
  • Matthew 5:10-11 and Acts 5:41
    • Suffering for my faith in Christ means I have been counted worthy to suffer in Jesus’ name.
    • I am blessed if I am insulted, punished, and/or persecuted for my faith in Jesus.
  • Romans 5:3-5
    • I can glory in my sufferings because of the good they will produce
      • perseverance
      • character
      • hope
  • James 1:2-4
    • As I trust God during suffering, He will use my trials to produce good things in me:
      • endurance
      • greater faith
      • greater spiritual maturity
      • spiritual completeness
      • I will lack nothing
  • Hebrews 12:4-12
    • I am to count hardships as discipline from God that will help me learn and grow. His discipline:
      • is verification of my adoption as a child of God
      • brings greater respect for God
      • yields peaceful fruit
      • brings about righteousness
      • is guaranteed to be for my benefit
      • allows me to share in God’s holiness

NOTE – “Counting trials as joy” does not mean that I need to try to create trials for myself, that I should be purposely combative or argumentative, or that I should try to prolong trials. It also doesn’t mean I must stay in a dangerous, abusive situation where I am being severely sinned against if I am able to get somewhere safe.  

SHARE

If you have experienced God’s supernatural joy and/or blessings in the midst of a difficult trial, or you have learned something helpful about how to “count it all joy when you face trials of many kinds,” we’d love to hear about it! I’m so thankful we can walk this road together and encourage one another.

RESOURCES

Verses about trials – Open Bible

Verses about God’s wisdom – Open Bible

A list of all of God’s promises – Bible Gateway

Verses about peace – Open Bible

Verses about suffering as a believer – Open Bible

Verses about being persecuted and hated for faith in Christ – Open Bible

Verses about God’s Sovereignty – Open Bible

Verses about finding God’s direction – Open Bible

Verses about strength – Open Bible

“The Peaceful Mom – Building a Healthy Foundation with Christ As Lord” has one chapter on counting trials as joy and one chapter on having an eternal perspective. Most of the chapters in the book would be a blessing to all women, not just moms.

10 thoughts to “How Can I Seriously Count Painful Times As Joy?”

  1. Hi April,
    Reading of your recent distress / trial. Death is so final, and so distressing to all concerned, counting it all joy is equally impossible. I have read your post with interest, although with so much scripture it’s hard to feel your grief…. Death is a very personal experience.

    My experience: Seven years prior to my father death I heard the voice of the Holy Spirit informing me of the death of my father. I had seven years to prepare myself, but one is never really prepared. After knowing and praying for seven years my father death was traumatic, but in a strange way healing for me. I was distraught and cried constantly, but though it all two scriptures came through to my aching heart.

    First, where Jesus informs his followers that it is for their good that he is going away, as the Holy Spirit could not come to them otherwise. I have found that scripture has literally come alive for me, it has drawn me so much closer to God.

    Second, Jesus says I go to prepare a place for you…in my fathers house are many mansions. I feel nearly ready to die myself and am so comforted in the fact that God has espically sent my father ahead, to prepare a place for me too.

    1. Angie,

      It is so great to hear from you. I always love to read your comments.

      I am very sorry to hear about your dad’s passing. Such a painful thing. :'(

      Death wasn’t God’s original plan for our relationships. It is awful! Such a sobering reminder of the penalty of sin.

      This post is intended to be a general post to help us learn to experience God’s joy as we face various trials. It is not intended to be a specific post about how I am dealing with my grief in this particular trial we are facing as a family right now. It is the post I had been planning to write before all of this happened. It’s just that now I am putting all of these things into high gear in my own life.

      Joy is a big topic! I plan to spread out the posts over a few weeks. I am hoping to share a post or two in the coming weeks about specific situations and how people experience God’s joy in those times.

      We have definitely experienced shock, grief, and sadness – and I know that will continue to be a process. We are just in the beginning stages. We have certainly had tears. There is a major hole all of the sudden in our family, his church, and our community. Death is very sad. And, yes, very personal, too. Absolutely. Some of the hardest things for me have been:
      – to see Dad Cassidy when he was not breathing and to try to do CPR on him – that was terrifying.
      – to have to be the one to tell our daughter that her Granddaddy was gone.
      – to watch my son (pictured carrying the back left side of the casket) being a pall bearer for his Granddad.

      And yet, we have experienced God’s joy, too. We can feel Him carrying us in ways we have never experienced before. I have. Greg has. His mom has. Our children have. We have had joy because we know where Dad Cassidy is and we can all picture him having the most amazing time. We are so thankful for his faith in Jesus and his godly legacy. We have had joy as we have heard countless stories from people who have known him over the years whose lives have been changed for the better because of his godly influence. We have joy because he lived life to the fullest and because he died with very little suffering and was able to do what he loved to do and wanted to do right up until the very end. We have had joy as we have received overwhelming love, prayers, encouragement, and support from the Body of Christ. We have also had joy as we prayed together as a family that maybe, even through Dad Cassidy’s death, some people may come into the kingdom. We know he would love that so much! And we know God would love that, too. We have joy because God is using this already to strengthen the love and unity in our family and because we are committed to walking this road together as a team.

      One night last week, our 11 year old daughter was crying alone in her room. She was so close to her Granddaddy and she missed him terribly. She told us later that she felt an arm around her shoulder. (She has never described anything like this before.) She said it was Jesus and that she felt comfort and peace after that. That certainly brought me much joy.

      Greg was having a very, very hard time the first few days. He and his dad were extremely close. Then we went to the funeral home for the private viewing. Somehow, God’s peace washed over Greg and he had strength to go on. His mom, also, has had amazing strength and peace – that is obviously from the Lord.

      Seeing God carry us and provide for us is so amazing. I can’t help but be full of thanksgiving and joy as I watch this unfold – even in the midst of our grief.

      Death, in my perspective, as a believer, is not final. Of course, if my loved one who died didn’t know the Lord, then yes, it would be final. And there would not be joy in his/her death. But for us as believers, when a loved one dies who knows the Lord, we know we will be reunited with him/her and that we will share eternity together in celebration and gladness! Death is not forever. It is a temporary separation. It is the beginning of their eternal life. It is a homecoming celebration in heaven!

      I have also had so much joy as I sing Behold Our God at the top of my voice every day and picture believers in heaven and on earth all praising God together in one voice. God has given me that song as kind of an anthem these past weeks. It has blessed me greatly.

      I love the scriptures that God shared with you. They are so precious – and so are the insights you have received. How I praise God and rejoice with you over His goodness and the gifts He has given to you and the way your faith has grown. And I rejoice with you that we have a home awaiting us in heaven and that we will get to be there before too long to celebrate with Jesus and with our loved ones.

      Much love, my precious sister!

      1. Hi April, thank you for your very detailed reply, I appreciate that, truly was kind of you in what must be very testing days for you all.

        Unlike your father-in-law, my dad was not what one would call a practising Christian. In fact he spent most of his last two years at the betting shop, coral ( not sure what you would call this in America?)

        That’s why I was surprised by my reaction after his death. Those Scriptures meant Dad had gone before me and would be In Heaven. Also the last two and half years since Dad died I have felt so close to him, like Jesus said, I felt it was good Dad had gone because now I thought about him all the time. I’m thinking now I wish I had been a better daughter, and spent more time with him When he was alive. Yes I have regrets, but I tried to be a good daughter and honour my father even though I disapproved of his lifestyle… of gambling, smoking etc…… I’m thinking now perhaps I should have forgiven him for not setting a godly example? But I loved him and he loved me, now I know why it is I can trust God as my heavenly father, because my earthly father loved and prayed for me, this I know…. So the conundrum April, will Dad be in heaven, after all he wasn’t a believing or practising Christian. It’s a hard one I guess. I cry all the time, However the Bible teaches us that love covers over a multitude of sins….I always wanted Dad to change, still trying to process everything.

        Take Care

        1. Angie,

          You are most welcome. It has been a whirlwind the past few weeks for us all.

          I agree that it is a lot harder when you don’t really know your loved one’s spiritual condition and relationship with the Lord. That was the situation with my grandfather who died 3 weeks before my twin sister and I were born. I am not sure where he is. I so wish I could have met him. It’s like there is a puzzle piece missing in my lives because both of my grandfathers died before we were born.

          I’m so glad that you tried to love your dad and honor him, even though, understandably, you couldn’t approve of some of his lifestyle.

          You actually can walk through healing about that relationship, even now. If you realize you are holding onto bitterness and resentment because of areas where he was a poor example, you can absolutely choose to forgive him, in the power of the Holy Spirit. You can allow God to heal you from any wounds his sin may have caused. I actually have some resources on this issue if you are interested. Almost all of us have wounds of some type or another because of our parents’ mistakes/sins. Whether they are still alive or already gone, God is here and can help us to heal from our wounds and scars.

          I’m so very sad to hear that you are crying all the time. 🙁

          I’d love to give you the biggest hug, my precious, beautiful sister.

          I believe there is hope for you, even in this tough situation.

          I am praying for you!

  2. Hi April

    I loved this post as your spiritual perspective, growth and maturity is very powerful during this difficult time. There is no doubt that God is working through you to share this with us. As I go through my own trials of “wanting people to change and resolving painful disagreements” ( like you wrote in your last blog), I find that my joy comes when I take my mind off of them and me and focus on Jesus by working on strengthening my faith — getting to know Him better.

    What has worked for me is the realization that my faith is a muscle- it can be strong or weak at times but it is also gets tested to see where I stand. What I have physically witnessed is that Faith does for me what I can’t do for myself. It keeps me from sinking into victim consciousness. I can feel the mercy that God delivers to my soul when I make strong, conscious efforts to study spiritual material (i.e. mainly Scripture)

    So, as the pain subsides, the peace and the power of His love flows over me and for that I am unbelievably grateful. Sure the tears came and I felt overwhelmed with my outside world but then as soon as I ask God for help, he always comes to my rescue. How can one not forget the love and peace he pours into my body, That is what I call times of joy when going through a trial. Blessings to you and your sweet Family,

    1. Jennifer Thomas,

      I love what you are learning about focusing on Jesus and on strengthening your faith. That is what I learned to do during those first few years when God began to change me. It is so empowering! And yes, faith is very much like a muscle. Trials, of many varying kinds, help us to see how strong our faith is at the time and where we are still weak and need more of God’s Spirit and His power to change us.

      How precious to experience the peace, power, and love of God like that! I long for everyone to get to enjoy this incredible intimacy with Him.

      Thank you so much for sharing, dear sister!

      Much love!

  3. April, I read your blog over again as it is filled with important learning. Wanted to add that you really hit it out of the park for me when you said…..”Thankfully, I don’t have to see from a mere human perspective if I know Jesus!” That is KEY. Also, “Dont be a slave to your emotions or your circumstances.” I believe you could write another book (of course when time permits as you are a very busy mother) about how you mentally change your perspective. IT is not easy but I feel many women would benefit on the how -to. Scripture is key yet I think many women are not sure which ones as each circumstance is different, Anyhow, thanks again for helping all of us.

    1. Jennifer,

      I do think these are such important topics! I have a chapter in The Peaceful Mom about having an eternal perspective. And also a chapter on dealing with our negative emotions/hormones which includes how to take our thoughts captive. There is, additionally, a chapter on correcting skewed thinking about God, others, and ourselves. And there is a chapter on counting trials as joy – which involves looking at difficult circumstances in a totally different way. Between those four chapters, I believe I have addressed these topics pretty thoroughly, although, I agree they could also be fantastic topics for books on their own.

      I pray that the things I share may be a huge blessing to many women and that God will help us understand and grow in our faith.

  4. HI April

    Thank you very much! I did not buy the Peaceful Mom, only Peaceful Wife. Had no idea you addressed these topics. Great stuff!! Very excited to read these four chapters especially. Personally, yes, you’re knowledge that you shared in Peaceful Wife has helped me ripen, grow up and become a much better person, woman, wife. I especially LOVE the prayers you have in Peaceful Wife. I can only imagine how many other women that you have helped. Keep up the great momentum. Lots of Love.

    1. Jennifer Thomas,

      So much of The Peaceful Mom is really about discipleship and growing in our faith – principles that apply to all of us – moms or not. I pray it will be a blessing to you, too.

      Thank you for sharing that they prayers were such a blessing in The Peaceful Wife. There is power in prayer as we trust God in faith!

      Much love!

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