“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds” (James 1:2).
What?! How is it possible to be joyful in the face of various trials?
Are you confused? I am not surprised.
If you are like me, when I first read James 1:2, it was hard to understand this command and even harder to live it out.
How are we supposed to be joyful in challenging circumstances? For instance:
- What if I’ve been criticized or slandered?
- Maybe I lost my job or am facing financial insecurity?
- What if I have a severe illness or my loved one died unexpectedly?
- Or what if I have been a victim of physical, emotional, or spiritual abuse?
In fact, in my early years as a Christian, being joyful during trials was hard. I often had the opposite reaction of joy. I would think:
- “What did I do to deserve this?” (Guilt)
- “What is going to happen to me?” (Fear)
- “How can they do that to me?” (Anger)
- “Why is this happening?” (Confusion)
But James knew what was best for us. He was not detached from the seriousness of everyday life. He was writing practical advice to suffering people in the first-century church.
As a matter of fact, James isn’t the only New Testament writer who tells us to “joyfully” face trials. Matthew (5:11-12), Luke (Acts 5:41), Peter (1 Pet. 1:6), Paul (Rom. 5:3-5; 2 Cor. 7:4), and the author of Hebrews (10:34) write the same thing.
Table of Contents
- Where Are the Sources of Our Trials?
- Mistaken Ideas Christians Have About Dealing with Trials
- What “Count it All Joy” Does Not Mean
- 3 Steps to “Count It All Joy”
- 3 Resources to Count It All Joy in Trials
- What’s Your Next Step in Counting it All Joy in Trials?
Where Are the Sources of Our Trials?
We all face various hardships. And the causes of suffering can vary from person to person. But, in general, most suffering can be narrowed down to three sources (Eph. 2:1-3). Specifically:
And regardless of the source of suffering, the Christian response should always be the same.
Mistaken Ideas Christians Have About Dealing with Trials
Before considering how Christians should deal with trials, let’s look at the wrong ways, we deal with them.
Firstly, some Christians think they should never face hardships.
But this is a self-focused view. Every human, including Christians, will face suffering in life.
- The issue isn’t “if” we will face adversity
- Instead, the real question is “How should we respond “when” we face challenges (John 16:33; Acts 14:22)
Secondly, some Christians are scared to go through trials.
- As a result, they try avoiding them at all costs
- But this misses the whole point of what suffering can accomplish in our lives
What “Count it All Joy” Does Not Mean
Before we learn what “count it all joy” means, let’s consider what James is not commanding us to do.
- He’s not expecting Christians to be only joyful during trials is wrong. We are not robots! We cannot ignore the sadness, grief, and tragedy in our testing.
- Also, “count it all joy” does not mean we enjoy our trials or pretend they are joyous when they are not (Heb. 12:11).
- Lastly, James is not recommending that Christians go out looking for trials. It is enough to deal with the problems and temptations that will naturally come our way. We don’t need to compound our challenges by seeking more.
3 Steps to “Count It All Joy”
Being joyful during trials involves viewing the trials through the eyes of faith. That means we choose to give thanks to God and intentionally adopt a joyful attitude (2 Cor. 7:4).
That’s easy to say, but it may it’s difficult to accomplish. So, how can we manage it?
Well, it all starts when we understand the purpose of James’s command. Let’s look at the process in detail.
1. Firstly, Trials Will Purify Your Faith
Counting it all joy doesn’t mean we need to pretend everything is okay. But it does allow challenges to hit our lives in a way that changes us for the good. For instance, challenges:
- Expose the deficits in our spiritual lives
- Prove the genuineness of our faith (1 Pet. 1:7)
2. Secondly, You Mature Spiritually
This maturity happens progressively and intentionally. For example:
- When confronted with trials, we consistently choose to trust and obey God
- And the more times we choose obedience in the face of different hardships, the tougher we become. Like a sailor becoming tougher as he goes through SEAL training.
- Finally, by adopting a lifestyle of patience (Luke 8:15), endurance (Heb. 12:1; Rev. 13:10), and steadfastness (Jas. 1:3; 5:11), we develop a Jesus-like character (1 Cor. 2:6; Heb. 5:14)
3. Thirdly, You Receive Rewards for Spiritually Maturing
These rewards include:
- Blessings and hope of an enriched spiritual life (Jas. 1:12)
- A sense of God’s love through the Holy Spirit (Rom. 5:3-5; Jas. 1:12)
- And the “crown of life” or God’s approval of our life after successful testing by trial (Jas. 1:12)
But you may ask, “This all sounds good, “in theory,” but when I am in the middle of suffering, I need wisdom! What resources do I have to help me?”
3 Resources to Count It All Joy in Trials
Choosing to “count it all joy” in trials relies on spiritual disciplines. Spiritual disciplines draw us into a greater understanding of and intimacy with God. These three resources are the Bible, prayer, and the Holy Spirit.
1. The First Resource Is the Bible
It makes sense that we need a divine perspective if we want to find joy in challenges. And one way to become more intimate with God is through Scripture. Studying, meditating, memorizing, and obeying the Bible (2 Tim. 3:16–17) draws us nearer to God.
And as we embed and obey the Bible, our lives correspond with God’s thoughts and ways. We also become more sensitive to the Holy Spirit leading us in truth and wisdom (John16:13). The Spirit’s illumination helps us understand and apply Scripture to our struggles (1 Cor. 2:10-13).
2. Second, Christians Can Approach God in Prayer
In challenging circumstances, we can ask God for wisdom. During hardships, we want to not only deal with our problems but also glorify his name.
And in tough times when we don’t know what to pray for, we can count on the Holy Spirit to intercede for us (Rom. 8:26). But we must pray in faith without doubting (Jas. 1:6-8) so God will answer our prayers.
3. Third, We Should Humbly Submit to the Holy Spirit
Then he can control our emotions and not allow them to control us (Rom. 8:9–11). And as we spiritually mature through trials, he produces in us the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22–23).
What’s Your Next Step in Counting it All Joy in Trials?
Are you facing a trial in your life? You may be finding it hard to “count it all joy” amid all your hurt, pain, and suffering. That is understandable.
But God commands us to “count it all joy” when facing various trials (James 1:2–4). Not because the hardships are joyful. But because challenges lead to patient endurance and greater faithfulness. And spiritual maturity leads to God’s blessings and the crown of life (Rom. 5:5; Heb. 12:11; James 1:3-4).
It makes sense to trust God during hardships when we put these rewards in proper perspective. We realize that God allows trials in our lives because he loves us and ultimately wants to bless us. And God wants us to be holy as he is holy (1 Pet.1:16; cf., Lev. 11:44, 45).
Mercifully, God has not left us to deal with trials by ourselves. He has given us all the resources we need to overcome any challenge from any source. These three resources include the Bible, prayer, and the Holy Spirit.
Ultimately it is your choice how you respond to various trials. But please remember God wants to bless you and draw you closer to him. So “count it all joy” during this trial and prepare for God’s blessing on your life.
- Hodges, Z. C. “The Epistle of James.” The Grace New Testament Commentary, edited by R. N. Wilkin, Grace Evangelical Society, 2010, pp. 1101–1108.
- Hughes, R. K. James: Faith that Works, Crossway Books, 1991, pp.15-85.
- Stulac, G. M. James (Jas 1:1–12). IVP Academic, 1993.
- Vaughan, C. James, Founders Press, 2003, pp.17-29.
- Wiersbe, W. W. The Bible Exposition Commentary, vol. 2, Victor Books, 1996, pp. 337–340.