Paul and James both say that we should rejoice in our trials because of their beneficial results. It is not the adversity considered in itself that is to be the ground of our joy. Rather, it is the expectation of the results, the development of our character that should cause us to rejoice in adversity. God does not ask us to rejoice because we have lost our job, or a loved one has been stricken with cancer, or a child has been born with an incurable birth defect. But He does tell us to rejoice because we believe He is in control of those circumstances and is at work through them for our ultimate good.
The Practice of Godliness, NavPress, 1996, p. 175. Used by permission of NavPress – www.navpress.com, All rights reserved.
Therefore, I bind these lies and slanderous accusations to my person as an ornament; it belongs to my Christian profession to be vilified, slandered, reproached and reviled, and since all this is nothing but that, as God and my conscience testify, I rejoice in being reproached for Christ’s sake.
Grace Abounding, Evangelical Press, 2000, p. 143. Get this book!
You must submit to supreme suffering in order to discover the completion of joy.
Take a saint, and put him into any condition, and he knows how to rejoice in the Lord.
An evidence that our will has been broken is that we begin to thank God for that which once seemed so bitter, knowing that His will is good and that, in His time and in His way, He is able to make the most bitter waters sweet.
Though my natural instinct is to wish for a life free from pain, trouble, and adversity, I am learning to welcome anything that makes me conscious of my need for Him. If prayer is birthed out of desperation, then anything that makes me desperate for God is a blessing… Puritan pastor William Gurnall makes this point in his writings, “The hungry man needs no help to teach him how to beg.”
Christians do not suffer accidentally or because of the irresistible forces of blind fate; rather, they suffer according to God’s will… Therein lies the knowledge that there is a limit to the suffering, both in its intensity and in its duration, a limit set and maintained by the God who is our creator, our savior, our sustainer, our Father.
Out of the fullness of God the Father you have been blessed with large numbers and are predestined from eternity to enjoy forever continual and unfading glory. The source of your unity and election is genuine suffering, which you undergo by the will of the Father and of Jesus Christ, our God. Hence, you deserve to be considered happy.
We are not called to rejoice at suffering in and of itself. Suffering is bad, suffering is hard, and suffering often comes at the hands of wicked people. Therefore, we do not rejoice in suffering because we love the suffering in and of itself. We rejoice in suffering because we look forward to what God is able to do through our suffering. Paul [in Romans 5:1-5] celebrated the fact that through our sufferings and afflictions God is bringing about endurance, proven character, and hope.
Counseling the Hard Cases, Edited by Stuart Scott and Health Lambert, B&H Publishing, 2012, p. 105, Used by Permission.
Let thy great joy and comfort evermore be, to have His pleasure done in thee, though in pains, sickness, persecutions, oppressions, or inward griefs and pressures of heart, coldness or barrenness of mind, darkening of thy will and senses, or any temptations spiritual or bodily.
The more we rejoice in our testings, the more we realize that they are not liabilities but privileges, ultimately beneficial and not harmful, no matter how destructive and painful the immediate experience of them might appear
[There is] a unique fullness of joy that the Lord graciously provides His children when they willingly and uncomplainingly endure troubles while trusting in Him – regardless of the cause, type, or severity of the distress. He will always use them for our benefit and for His own glory. It is not because of some sort of religious masochism, but rather a sincere trust in the promise and goodness of our Lord, that we can look on trials as a welcome friend, knowing with Joseph that what may have been meant for evil against us, God means for good (Gen. 50:20; cf. Rom. 8:28).
The night dews of affliction and disappointment may fall thickly upon it – the storms of sorrow may beat heavily against it – the winds of adversity may howl fearfully around it – but, like those fabled lamps of which we read, that, century after century, illumined the sepulchers of the east – burning with calm and steady light, amid the desolation of all earthly things – unchanged and unextinguishable; so does this joy – this living spark struck off from the great source of light and life – outlive all deaths, all changes, until it accompanies the freed spirit of the believer in whom it dwells, back to those abodes of joy from whence it came.
Thankfully, joy is an all-season response to life. Even in the dark times, sorrow enlarges the capacity of the heart for joy. Like a diamond against black velvet, true spiritual joy shines brightest against the darkness of trials, tragedies and testing.
In trial and weakness and trouble, He seeks to bring us low, until we learn that His grace is all, and to take pleasure in the very thing that brings us and keeps us low. His strength is made perfect in our weakness. His presence filling and satisfying our emptiness, becomes the secret of humility that need never fail. The humble man has learned the secret of abiding gladness. The weaker he feels, the lower he sinks, and the greater his humiliations appear, the more power and the presence of Christ are his portion.
There are rare and wonderful species of joy that flourish only in the rainy atmosphere of suffering.
Joy in God in the midst of suffering makes the worth of God – the all-satisfying glory of God – shine more brightly than it would through our joy at any other time. Sunshine happiness signals the value of sunshine. But happiness in suffering signals the value of God. Suffering and hardship joyfully accepted in the path of obedience to Christ show the supremacy of Christ more than all our faithfulness in fair day.
In the hands of a loving God, sorrow and suffering become the doorways into the greatest and most indestructible joys.
According to the opening chapters of 2 Corinthians we see the progression from trials to the resultant joy. Consider how Paul’s life was filled with hardship: “Affliction” (1:4), “abundant…suffering” (1:5), “burdened excessively, beyond…strength” (1:8), “sentence of death within ourselves” (1:9), “sorrowful” (2:1), “affliction and anguish of heart” (2:4), “afflicted [and] perplexed” (4:8), “persecuted [and] struck down (4:9), “constantly being delivered over to death” (4:11), “beatings…imprisonments…tumults…labors…sleeplessness…hunger” (6:5), “dishonor [and] evil report” (6:8), “dying [and] punished (6:9) and “having nothing (6:10). And that only takes us through chapter 6! And might I add that most if not all of this was related to his faithful service to Christ. So how can you go from this agony to praise to God? Answer: It was Paul knowing that Christians need to “walk by faith [and] not by sight” (5:7). And it’s this faith that recalls that every promise of God is fulfilled to us in Christ (1:20). We know we are “established…and anointed…in Christ” (1:21). We are “sealed” and given “the [Holy] Spirit in our hearts as a pledge” (1:22). We are “reconciled to God” (5:20). As a result of these truths, we “do not lose heart” (4:1) because we are [controlled by] the love of Christ” (5:14)and through our trials we are learning in those trials to “trust [more]…in God who raises the dead” (1:9). So therefore while we are “sorrowful” as a result of trials, we are because of God’s promises “always rejoicing” (6:10).
Trials can devastate us because we are often looking as to how they are affecting our lives. Yet when we can die to self and desire God’s glory as a result of them, we are given an entirely different outlook. We can actually rejoice if we know God’s name, God’s glory is being magnified as witnessed through our response to the trial. Specifically how? When others see our Christlike attitude – gratitude verses complaining, kindness verses anger, faith verses anxiety, contentment verses greed and joy verses bitterness – God is glorified. It means very little when godly character and spiritual fruit only appear when things are going well in our lives.
Christian, it does not need to be this complicated! Do you really think the infinite lover of our soul has neither the desire nor power to keep you from despair? Didn’t He promise you His joy (Jn. 15:11)? Didn’t He promise you true life? So, not to minimize any of our trials, but when we despair, we can’t blame God. The trial is only made worse through our own choices and ignorance or unwillingness to do it God’s way and His ability to bring joy despite and through the trial (Jas. 1:2). We choose the bad attitude. We choose the unhealthy conversations. We choose to the bad theology. We chose to be ignorant of biblical teaching. We choose to exhibit unbelief in the promises of God.
In 1 Peter 1:6 we read, “In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials.” Only in the Christian faith can we speak of joy and distress in the same sentence! You see, if my faith is to be pure faith, it will weather the fiery tested when tried. And how is that faith proven? It keeps trusting God and thus greatly rejoicing, even when experiencing distress.
To be victorious in the Christian life, we must understand the emotional paradox between our trials and our joy. They are both real and they both exist in tension with each other. We must acknowledge our pain. We are permitted to grieve. But through it all, we are found rejoicing in God, knowing that He is in control, using the trial for our good. As Paul said in 2 Corinthians 6:10, “Sorrowful, yet always rejoicing.”
When we respond rightly to trials, they actually have the capacity to increase our joy. Through them: God instructs us, we learn to depend on Him more, we experience a greater grace, we are being conformed to the image of Christ and we are learning the contrast with the glories to come.
Why name joy the gift in trials? Because trials keep us from becoming complacent about our loving God and Savior when we are forced to our knees and the tears won’t stop. It is only then that our communion with our God is the purest. Trials drive us to run boldly to the throne of grace, to the safety of being on our faces in the presence of God, and to spend time in deep communion with God. When we are hurting, we don’t suffer as much from weak, shallow, and meaningless minutes with the Lord, We learn to relish and anticipate hours with God! The experience of communion and intimate fellowship with God is the very depiction of joy!
Only a morbid fanatic can take pleasure in the sufferings he inflicts upon himself; only an insensitive fool can take pleasure in the sufferings that are the consequences of his folly; and only a convinced Christian can take pleasure in sufferings endured “for Christ’s sake,” for he alone has been initiated into the divine secret, that it is only when he is “weak,” having thrown himself unreservedly in penitence and humility upon the never-failing mercies of God, that he is “strong,” with a strength not his own, but belonging to the Lord of all power and might.
In our sufferings for Christ there is joy, not so when we suffer for our sins.
Romanian pastor Richard Wurmbrand spent 14 years in prison for preaching the gospel. Although his captors smashed four of his vertebrae and either cut or burned 18 holes in his body, they could not defeat him. He testified, “Alone in my cell, cold, hungry, and in rags, I danced for joy every night.” During this time he turned to a fellow prisoner, a man he had led to the Lord before they were arrested, and asked, “Have you any resentment against me that I brought you to Christ?” His response: “I have no words to express my thankfulness that you brought me to the wonderful Savior. I would never have it another way.” These two men exemplify the supernatural joy that can be experienced by believers who live on the edge of death as the result of being severely persecuted.
The apostles went away rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for the name of Christ, that they were graced so far as to be disgraced for the name of Christ!
A Puritan Golden Treasury, compiled by I.D.E. Thomas, by permission of Banner of Truth, Carlisle, PA. 2000, p. 159.
On this side of the cross misery persists, but the scales are tipped in favor of joy.