When Your Plan Meets Reality
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. – James 1:2-4
Was James serious when he wrote this? Surely, he got this wrong. Are we supposed to consider it pure joy when we encounter difficulty and trial? This seems wrong to so many Christians and certainly runs against what we instinctively know as human beings.
Yes, James was completely serious when he wrote these words and no, he was not crazy. I think it is important to understand what James was trying to communicate. He was NOT saying that we need to enjoy our difficulties and trials. As Kent Hughes states, “Count it all joy means to make a deliberate and careful decision to experience joy even in times of trouble.”
While that is less confusing, it does seem like it might be impossible to accomplish. To the world, this is impossible and irrational but not for a true believer. Our joy doesn’t come from the circumstances of life, but from knowing that our earthly difficulties do have spiritual value. We see in these verses that the testing of our faith produces endurance. Trials make us tougher Christ-followers. We are engaged in a daily battle. The more battles we fight, the more battle-tested we become.
This prolonged endurance as we journey through life makes us mature believers. We tend to think that as we become more mature, life’s problems and trials would decrease, but in fact, life’s continued trials are what help produce maturity. James did not say “if” you experience trials, but “when”. Paul said, “Indeed, all who desire to live a Godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” (2 Timothy 3:12)
Difficulty and trial will always be a real part of this life. As followers of Christ, we can take joy in knowing that they will produce real fruit for the kingdom.