Sunday, September 28, 2008

Counting Joy

"Count it all joy brothers, when you encounter troubles of various kinds, because you know that the testing of your name produces perseverance." - James 1:2

I've always been a fan of the book of James. Maybe because its topics seemed immediately applicable in my life. Taming the tongue, understanding the intertwining of faith and works, overcoming trials and temptation, these were things I could readily relate to. It may be why my father encouraged me to memorize the entire book during 6th grade. That, or as a result of my dad's significant wisdom, he realized any adolescent girl could benefit from memorizing passages about taming the tongue.

My affection and familiarity for the book doesn't prevent me from being surprised by new insights when I read it. It's like a lasting friendship that still challenges you after years of interaction. I know what the friend is going to say, and yet the words cut anew. James' ability to convict remains regardless of the passage of time.

Recently, it didn't require me to read far into the book for this purpose to be achieved. As I was reminding again to count my trials as joy, I realize that maybe this was bigger than I originally anticipated. I also thought that the reason I was to count trials as joy was because it produced perseverance. In other words, I adopted the "no pain, no gain" approach. Sure I didn't want trials but if I could successfully navigate them, I would be a stronger Christian as a result.

Although I believe the aforementioned to be true, I also believe that I need to view my struggles as joyous for entirely different reasons. Counting my trials as joy means not only recognizing the good that can come to me as a result, but I should count them as joy because of the opportunity that it gives me to make God look good. In other words, when things are tough people expect us to question God, to doubt His goodness, and to be lax in our praise. Trials make us superstars because everyone is watching how we will respond. What better opportunity to demonstrate God's grace. What better time to reflect His love.

Now I try to look as trials not as hurdles to overcome, but as a finish line to cross. Hurdles are obstacles that I'm trying to avoid; the finish line is marked by celebration. I look at trials as an opportunity to celebrate God and His promises, and thereby as an opportunity to glorify Him. And there's no greater joy than that.



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