Joy in Suffering

If we were honest with ourselves, most of us would admit that there are times where we wonder, how could God let this happen? Whether it is an earthquake in Haiti where hundreds of thousands of people die or it is a family member who is sick and suffering, we wonder, why is God allowing this to happen? I do not intend to dig deeply into the problem of suffering in this article, but I do want to acknowledge that suffering is something that every human will deal with (Christian and non-Christian alike) and we must come to terms with the sovereignty of God in the midst of suffering. This past Sunday, I preached on James 1:2-4 where James tells his readers, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know 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 reminds his readers that trials are not optional, but something they “will” face. But he also gives us some insight on what kind of perspective or attitude we should have in the midst of trials and suffering. “Count it all joy.” This is truly a remarkable statement given that the trials of his original audience were beyond what most of us today could imagine. Many of James’ original audience faced intense persecution and they had left everything they ever knew behind to follow Christ. James would have been aware of this and he wanted to encourage them. Obviously, to follow through on his instructions, James’ readers would need a very good reason for why they should be joyful in the midst of their trials (not to mention Holy Spirit empowerment). So James explains, “for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.” The word “steadfastness” has also been translated as patience, endurance, or perseverance. As we run the race of life, these are all necessary characteristics, especially as our enemy the devil constantly tries to throw us off course. James then explains, “And let steadfastness have its full effect that you might be perfect (mature) and complete, lacking in nothing.” It is always easy to run from our problems, but what James is saying is that we need to face them head on. Through the strength that only God can provide, we need to face our trials with patience and endurance, and trust Christ to see us through. James reasons that we can be joyful in our trials because of what God is accomplishing in and through us. We can be joyful because he is working to grow and mature us through our suffering. I find it amazing how the sovereign God, who is in control of everything, uses the circumstances of life (even the bad things) to make us more like his Son. Ultimately He works to bring glory to His name and we can all rejoice in that.

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