Joy in Trials of Various Kinds

      I am a Pastor of a church that has been flooded by hurricane Florence. The building itself was badly flooded and damaged. Right now, as it sits, it is bare bones. The people who attend are all homeless except four or five families.

    When this occurred I recall praying, praying that God would give me wisdom. This is my first lead pastorate and was unsure of how to shepherd a church in this condition. What do I say? What do I do? How do I, how can I minister to them? All these questions and more plagued my mind.

    One particular word came to mind - joy. The church God placed me over was in a trial and still is. The question became for me is how do I help them have joy in trials? Joy in trials seems odd, does it not? It does. However, joy in suffering is themed from Genesis to Revelations. And I want you to know how to have it.

    Let's go to the Proverbs of the New Testament, the book of James. His writing is practically and faithfully reminding Christians how to live. After his greeting in James 1:1, James writes in 1:2 this - "Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds." Consider for a moment what James is saying, consider it pure joy when you go through trials. Interesting.

   Joy is the emotion of happiness and delight caused by something exceptionally good and satisfying(dictionary.com). When you are happy, what you are experiencing is joy. When you are delighted, what you are experiencing is joy. And note that joy is "caused by something." Something gives rise to joy, something produces joy, something manufactures joy, and that "something" is "exceptionally good and satisfying."

    I want you to note who James is directing this message to: "my brothers". He is directing this message to the church. Not to his physical brothers. Not to blood relatives. He is speaking to "brothers" that are family only by the blood shed for us on the cross by Jesus Christ.

   Now look back at James 1:2, and ask yourself, when does James tell us to "count it all joy"? Answer - "when you meet trials of various kinds." The word "trial" here means affliction, temptation and calamity, which is natural disaster. So, James is telling the church, when we go through misery, pain and agony, be joyful. When we are faced with temptation, be joyful. When we are confronted with natural disaster's, be full of joy!

  Now, if joy is caused by something exceptionally good and satisfying, is James saying that trials are exceptionally good and satisfying, and therefore the "something" that causes joy? Or is it that we are able to have joy in trials because of something else that is exceptionally good and satisfying? That brings us to the question: how do I have joy in trials of various kinds.

   The answer is a simple one, and I am not saying this because I am a Pastor or because I am supposed to say this. I prayed on this question. I searched the Scripture for this answer. It is not something considered Facebook quotable these days, I guess, nor is it something tweetable, perhaps. The answer simply is - Jesus. Joy begins and ends with Jesus. The exceptional goodness and satisfaction found in Christ is how one can go through trials of various kinds with joy. And to prove my answer I would like to give a few Scriptures:

  • Nehemiah 8:10 - "For the joy of the LORD is your strength"
  • Psalm 16:11 - "You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore."
  • Romans 15:13 - "May the God of hope fill your with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope." 
  The exceptional goodness and satisfaction found in God is our strength in times of weakness. Being in the presence of God is maximal, exceptional goodness and satisfaction. From Him comes joy! God is exceptionally good and satisfying, and the only way to have joy in trials of various kinds is through Him. 

   A last thought to ponder on. I do not know who said this, but someone once said “Joy is not necessarily the absence of suffering, it is the presence of God.” I thought about this. Chewed on these words a bit. What this unknown author is saying is powerful. I take this to imply that happiness, delight, joy does not equate to life without storms, life without hardship, life without trouble or a life without difficulty. A life absent of suffering does not mean you will be happy. A life without suffering is not essential to a life filled with joy - God is. Jesus is essential to finding joy in life in the presence and absence of suffering. Without Jesus, lasting and meaningful joy is impossible. 
 

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