“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”
Count it all joy when you meet trials of various kinds. For the longest time, this verse confused me. How could this emotion of joy follow trials? It just didn’t make sense. “Well,” I thought, “maybe its more of a ‘look on the bright side’ kind of thing.” But James makes it clear we are to count ALL of it as joy. How can this be?
It’s not that we count trials as joy because we like the trials. They are difficult. They are hard to walk through. We count the trials as joy because they refine our faith and produce in us a steadfast dependence on the Lord.
The point James is making here is that trials refine faith. Like gold brought through the refining fire, our faith is made more pure, steadfast, and constant when it is tested in trials (Job 23:10). This experience certainly rings true for me. When I have walked through something hard with God, I have greater faith for the future because I’ve seen him bring me through that trial.
When we treat our “faith” as an extracurricular activity on the calendar with every other activity in our life, this doesn’t sound that appealing. If church is a hobby, I’d rather just not have a trial. It’s almost as if this verse is heard like this: “If you walk through this trial with God, your church attendance will be more steadfast.” There isn’t much motivation for faith through that trial.
But when we realize that faith is our means of being in a relationship with the God of the universe, we long for greater faith. It’s like walking through something with your husband or wife and knowing that there is greater intimacy on the other side. When we lean on God in our trials, they produce a steadfast intimacy and dependence with our Lord.
That’s what is supposed to give us joy. And the thing about joy is that it can be present even with sorrow. Paul says he is “sorrowful, yet always rejoicing.” We still see and experience the pain in the world around us, but something else rings steady and true in our souls. Our God is with us. Our God is for us. Our God loves us. And this brings joy. Even in the midst of sorrow.
COVID-19 is a trial. It is a trial for us and everyone around us. And while it might feel strange to say, I encourage you to count it as joy. Why? Not because you have joy at the effects of this virus. The impact of this virus brings us great sorrow. But we also have joy because we know we will come out on other side with a more steadfast faith in our Savior.
You can run to the Lord or you can run from the Lord. You can lean into Him or away from Him. Lean in. He will refine your faith and lead you into a deeper joy of his presence and communion.