Did you read my blog post title? I know, I hear ya...joy in trials? I've got to be joking, right? Did you read that right? Joy in trials? You're thinking maybe I have lost my silly little pollyana mind. I'm not. You did. I haven't.
There's a LOT of bad things that can happen to a person. A lot of stress, a lot of heartache, a lot of pain. Things that make you feel like God can't possibly be watching or He would have done something to stop it. Things that make you feel like you are just done...or undone. Things that seem like you can't ever get out from under it all...like you just got your feet under you and WHAM, they get knocked out again.
We all have our stories. We all have our hurts. We all have our pains. They are big, and small, and very real. Sometimes we get through them and sometimes it feels like we never will. Look around...everyone you see is facing or has faced trials of many kinds. Even that gal down the street who always looks so pulled together, calm and confident...you may not see them, but she has scars and bruises in her life, too.
Here's a Word from the book of James. I have almost memorized it so that I can hold it close to my heart for those times when I just want to say, "What, God? Really? Why me?"
2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
The first time I read this verse, I was incredulous. I was amazed by the very idea that someone could ever find joy in trials. Yet, as I've contemplated this idea, and observed people around me and how they "deal" with things in their lives...I've come to realize it's possible. That what James is saying here is true. When we are under fire, being tested, facing those trials that should be knocking us to our knees and keeping us there...we can find the strength of faith to persevere. We who follow Christ need only look to Christ and His example.
What did Jesus do when things were difficult or overwhelming? He went to a quiet place and prayed. He asked His Father for strength. He prayed for God's will. He sought out God's wisdom. He spent time with His Father.
You see, Jesus knew, and you can know, that trials and troubles are a time to connect with God. A time to remember His faithfulness. A time to stop trying to do everything yourself...and let God be in control. A time to grow and mature in faith.
And how do you find joy? I'm no expert...I'm still working on this, too. But I believe that just knowing that I am never alone makes a huge difference. No matter what it FEELS like, in Christ, we are NEVER alone. He is always there....He promises this...and Jesus does not lie, nor does He break promises. He is beside us, in front of us, behind us. He is ALWAYS there.
I also believe that it is necessary to spend time in prayer...to keep our own connection to Him in place. We tend to let go...God doesn't. I am convinced that the worst thing to do in trouble is to let go of Him. To try to go it alone. Instead...keep that communication line open 24/7.
It's important to remember...really sit and take some time to remember...how God has taken care of you in the past. Remember the blessings. Remember the rescues. Remember the miracles. I can't tell you how many times I have looked back over times in my life that seemed just too horrible at the time...and then I realized just how much I learned from those times. Just how much strength I gained from those times. Just how much I grew in maturity in my faith because I persevered WITH God.
Maybe you won't see the joy right away. Maybe it will take some effort to choose the joy. Maybe you will feel like giving up. But beloved friend, I promise you...God will hold on to you and not let you go no matter how long the trouble lasts. He hears your prayers even when it FEELS like He is not answering. He knows your needs. Trust that He is there. That He will give you strength to go on. That He will see you through the trial. If your faith feels like it's not strong enough, ask Him for more. He will give it. If you feel the need for wisdom, ask Him for it. He will give it.
5 If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.
You are not alone. And there can be joy in trials.
Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand.
And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.