"Consider it joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience."
I memorized this verse as a teenager. I've known it for years. I think about it fairly often. But I'd never examined it like we did on Friday. Consider it comes from a verb that carries a lot of weight. It doesn't just mean "name it." It doesn't just mean "say it is, whether you think it or not." It means to dwell on it, to journey through it, to arrive at it, to bring it to joy. It's a process, one that involves our minds.
Another key word there is when. Not if. When we fall into trials. We're going to, that's not a question. In this world, trouble and sorrow find us no matter whether we're wicked or righteous. (On a side note, I've also been reading the book of Job, and the commentators have been stressing how Job's assertion that a good man could suffer like he is flew in the face of the Wisdom doctrine of the day.)
Which led to another good point in our discussion, when one of our friends related how someone had just that day asked, basically, "But why? Why do bad things happen to good people?"
It's an age-old question. Such an age-old question that I'd pretty much stopped considering it and figured everyone else in the world had too, LOL. But obviously it still bothers people. It was pretty silly of me to think otherwise. Because yes, we always ask why. We always ask what we did to deserve a bad turn. We always get angry when someone we love is hurt or dies, or when we do everything right and still seem to be punished. When we lose our jobs. When we suffer injury or illness. When, when, when...
But something hit me while we were talking about that. Not a new thought, I'm sure, but a striking one.
How are we defined, if not by how we react to those trials? What makes us who we are if not whether we stand or fail in the face of adversity?
It isn't about bad things happening to good people. Bad things happen to everyone. It's how we respond to them that makes us good or bad.
See, life isn't about being happy. That's part of it, and obviously a part we love. But joy is something more. Joy isn't about circumstances. If it was, then how could James have possibly told us to consider trouble and trials a joy? It would be insensible.
But joy is that something-deeper we can arrive it. It's that knowing that, even when we don't feel it, God is good. That even when we're in the valley, the mountain top is waiting. That even through the pain, there's Someone holding us and loving us.
Joy is finding the beauty in the clouds of the approaching storm (inspired by that photo above I took at the beach last summer). Joy is knowing that when something is yanked out from under you, it's because God has a different plan. Joy is in the journey of trusting Him, that long road where you learn so much. Joy is in looking back and realizing that if that terrible thing hadn't happened, you wouldn't be who you are today.
Joy is in trusting that day will come even when you're still in the terrible thing.
Joy isn't easy. It isn't supposed to be. But the things worth fighting for are just that--worth fighting for. We need to fight for our joy. We need to stop focusing on the things this instant-gratification world tell us will make us happy and start focusing on what will make us better. On what will make us stronger. On what will make us raise our hands and praise Him through the storm.
You know that phrase we sing to that hand-clapping, upbeat melody? We bring the sacrifice of praise...
It's a sacrifice. That means it's hard. It's rough. It's supposed to hurt. That's what praise is. Praise is giving Him that shout when we don't feel it. When we can't understand it. When the questions are bigger than the answers.
Praise is considering the joy. Considering it--that trial, that trouble--a joy.
Nope, it's not easy. But that's what makes it beautiful.