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Count it all to joy

Mrs. Grace Gan

19 May 2020

Very often in our lives, we consciously or unconsciously hope for peace, that things will go smoothly and in our favour. And it is only when things go wrong, when troubles and difficulties come, that our expectations are surfaced through our feelings of sadness, frustration, disappointment, and anxiety. However, James, the brother of Jesus, tells us to consciously choose the opposite.

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)

For James, joy starts from a realignment in our perspective and attitude. While joy is not a natural response for us sinners, he encourages us to make it a habit to consider trials, or to put them into the mental category of “joy”. He does not say to count it as joy IF you meet trials in life. Instead, he says “WHEN you meet trials of various kinds”, because suffering and trials are part and parcel of life in a sinful world. James strongly believed all the trials that God allowed to happen, happen because He has something greater in mind for us. Our hope then, lies not in the absence of trouble and pain, but in the enduring presence of God amidst our troubles.

God has already begun the good work of making us perfect, and He is still working to bring it to completion till Christ returns (Phil 1:6). Yes, this is the hope for us, that nothing that happens is meaningless. Everything that happens, whether by the hand of man or by the work of nature, fall squarely within God’s plan and control, for the purpose of making us whole and without divided allegiances.

Throughout the Bible, we see God allowing pain, disappointments, setbacks, and difficulties to come to His chosen people so that they can mature. Shortly before Jesus was captured, He looked at Peter and said “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers” (Lk 22:31-32). Jesus knew how much it would hurt Peter to be the one to publicly betray Jesus, but Jesus allowed him to go through it, so that Peter can be strengthened and restored later on.

And the interesting thing is that in Jms 1:12, James goes on to say that “Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.” The one who remains steadfast, who continues to fix their eyes and hope in God’s goodness while facing trials and suffering, this person is the one who loves God. When we persevere to trust God, that is our act of love to Him. As Ps 147:11 tells us, “the Lord delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love.”

So, my dear brothers and sisters, when pain, disappointments, setbacks, and difficulties come our way, let us give thanks for the opportunity to show Him our love. And instead of asking why God allowed them to happen to us, let us humbly ask the question of “what is God teaching me through this suffering?”

Mrs. Grace Gan

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