…Or did he simply know the source? Sometimes we Christians can give the impression that believers are like those slow motion, pastel-clad beautiful people on the silver screen who gracefully float across flower-sprinkled meadows with surreal smiles and not a care in the world. We sometimes exude the impression that once we decide to follow Jesus: POOF! We are suddenly prosperous and never unemployed; all of our children are healthy, straight arrows destined to be doctors and lawyers and pastors of big thriving churches; no one we know ever experiences illness or death; our marriages are like Ozzie & Harriet (Google ‘em if you are young.); and life is just always so good just like the t-shirt says. In actuality, we believers all know the truth: Life can be hard.
You see, joy is often confused with happiness. Our happiness relies on outside factors and circumstances; whereas JOY, on the other hand, is God’s gift to us. Joy is a fruit of the Holy Spirit that transcends anything that may be going on and provides a means for us to thrive; even in the midst of the heartaches, challenges and difficult circumstances we must all inevitably face in our lives. As believers, our joy is a natural outpouring from the steadfast assurance that God is in control… no matter what.
If our strength was dependent upon things going great, we would crater in the face of adversity, and our confidence would lay wide open and vulnerable to Satan’s lies. Even Jesus begged the Father to please let that cup pass from Him on the eve of His sacrifice on the cross. Still, His joy persisted because of His obedience, and in spite of the unimaginable torture He endured at the hands of some of the very ones for whom He would die. He knew that His sacrifice was the only means of salvation for you and me, and He chose hell for a time so that we might spend eternity in heaven with him.
So, when we face the hard stuff of this world, isn’t it good to know that we have the freedom to draw from the deep reservoirs of joy that can only come from knowing that God is faithful? That’s what James knew, and that’s why he could say with conviction, “Count it ALL joy.” My prayer for anyone who reads this is that you KNOW the Savior; that you TRUST Him with your life; and that you EXPERIENCE real joy regardless of your circumstances.
James 1:2-3 (New International Reader’s Version)
2 My brothers and sisters, you will face all kinds of trouble. When you do, think of it as pure joy.
3 Your faith will be put to the test. You know that when that happens it will produce in you the strength to continue.