My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. (James 1: 3-4)
I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine making request for you all with joy, for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ; (Phil 1: 4-7)
How do you count it joy when you are in the middle of one of life's storms? How in the world could anyone, including God, expect that from us?
A few years ago, I would have answered "It's impossible." That was before I encountered a God that filled me with such spiritual joy that it overflowed into my daily existence and into everything that I do.
Paul is not speaking about happiness. He is talking about the joy of the Lord. That joy is strength and steadfastness. It is power and it is peace. "Do not sorrow; for the joy of the Lord is your strength." (Neh 8:10)
Happiness is dependent upon circumstance and surroundings. We are happy when things go our way. We are happy when life is what we call good. We are also joyful and thankful in those good times; however, as Jesus said, we are going to have hard times in our lives. Times when we won't be so happy.
The joy of the Lord gives us the ability to go through any trial, any trouble, any storm ... with the sure knowledge that God is working in our lives just as He promises that He will. Our joy is dependent upon God and what He has done in our lives. It is not dependent upon our circumstance.
Times of hardship test our faith. We ask questions that seem to have no answers and have to trust that God knows what He is doing.
Without faith in God, we stumble and break in hard times and crumble in despair when our hearts break.
And although we may feel as though our lives are shattered and broken upon the rocky road we are on, we must keep walking, crawling if need be, because we know that with Jesus there is hope for the future. And we will look back upon that journey with amazement and wonder in the mighty and loving God that brought us through it. We will realize that God does not make mistakes and we know that there will be a story to tell, a testimony of God's work and His faithfulness. That gives us cause for great joy even in the middle of our pain.
Also, during life's valleys, God is perfecting us... perfecting our faith. He is growing us into the person He planned us to be; "perfect and complete, lacking nothing."
So rather than thinking that God let the devil after us to mess up our lives, we should look at our valley as an opportunity for growth and testimony. You know... "what the devil means for bad, God means for good."
There is nothing that happens in our lives that God does not know about in advance. He has a plan and a purpose for us. His plan was in effect before ever we were born and He is going to carry it out in us. He knows our past, present, and future.
Are you saved? Are you born again? Are you a child of the King? If so, then you have reason for great joy.
As His child, if we are going through a trial, it is because God has not only trusted us with it. He has entrusted it to us. He is using it to perfect us and complete us. In doing so, He is finishing the good work He began in us.
Has God called you into a ministry or service and you think it will never happen? It's impossible? Your life is too confused or messed up and you've taken too many wrong turns? You've gotten distracted too many times or just plain given up on it? Do you envision and pray for a future that you think can never happen?
God has not given up. He has not lost sight of you where you are. His plan for you has not changed. Your circumstance is part of His plan and He trusts you in it. He has given you the measure of faith required to see it through. It is not up to you to complete it. He is the one who does that. But you must participate by acknowledging Him and allowing Him to do His work. You must participate by standing firm in His word and by rejecting satan when he lies to you. You have to cooperate with Him by getting up every day to do the work set before you in faith.
Take joy in knowing that whatever your situation, God is acting for your benefit and on your behalf. He is completing you.