Several weeks ago, I had the opportunity to do one of my favorite things- teach the Word at Chapman FCA. I shared some of my family’s story with losing my mom, and encouraged and challenged them from James 1:1-2. Here, James commands, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”
I encouraged the students to “count it all joy” as they faced trials, whether they be bigger, like losing a family member, or smaller, like a difficult class. Since that early morning of FCA, though, do you know what I’ve struggled to do? I’ve struggled to “count it all joy”.
This time of year is hard with Mom’s birthday and Mother’s Day. On top of that, we’re at 17 weeks waiting on initial approval from India before we can move on in our adoption process (the average wait is 12). As soon as I challenged those students to count it all joy, the Enemy reminded me of my trials and tempted my heart to have the opposite of joy. As I’ve battled this the past few weeks, the Lord’s been with me. He’s made me very aware we’re in spiritual warfare, but yet he’s already won the victory for us. He’s also reminded me I’m not alone in this fight for joy, and so friends, from one fighter to another, here’s the truth of Scripture I challenged the students with and have continually preached to myself since that day.
First, James commands us to “count it all joy”. This isn’t optional or something we do if we feel like it. That means in my trial of missing Mom and in the wait of our adoption, I’m commanded to “count it all joy”. Does it mean I don’t miss and grieve Mom? Or the wait in adoption isn’t hard? Definitely not! “Count it all joy” means though we suffer, struggle, and grieve, we do so with a sense of rejoicing because we know God has a purpose for our trials- to produce spiritual maturity in us.
James tells us our trials produce steadfastness, which is a life of faithful endurance that will ultimately make us perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. Our trials teach us to depend on God like never before. Because everything I had known in life was changing when Mom was diagnosed with cancer, I turned to the only thing I knew to be unchanging- God and His Word. In that time, the Lord taught me how to study his Word and have a deep love for it. Now, he’s allowed me to share this story in various speaking and writing settings. Though I miss my mom, I rejoice knowing God is using this hard thing to grow others and me in Christlikeness. I’ve also learned to remain faithful to him amid trials, because he remains faithful to me. As we await CARA approval for adoption, I think back on God’s faithfulness in other trials. He was faithful to us as Mom battled cancer, and I know he’ll do it again.
Unfortunately, we WILL face trials. Notice James says “when” not “if”. Some trials are huge, such as battling infertility or the loss of a child in the face of Mother’s Day. Other are smaller, like traffic or a big test. When we face those, we count it all joy because we can trust God will use those in our lives for good things. Romans 8:28 tells us that for those in Christ, he’s working ALL things together for our good and his glory. He’s working to make us look more like him, and what better good could there be than that? It might not always feel good in the moment, but we can trust him.
“Count it all joy” is a common phrase in the Christian community, but practically, how do we battle to do this? When I’m tempted to despair or become bitter, I think of Jesus. Hebrews 12:2 says Jesus endured the cross for the joy set before him. If Jesus can endure the cross for the joy set before him, then I can endure this worldly trial the same way. We can endure the break ups, the losses, and everything in between with the joy set before us of knowing Christ. I love the song that says, “Turn your eyes upon Jesus. Look full in his wonderful face, and the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of his glory and grace”. From personal experience, I can tell you this is so true. Usually, when bitterness, self-pity, or entitlement has set in, it’s because I’m looking far too much at myself. When I turn my eyes to Jesus, even the hardest things of this world no longer seem so hard, and I see my situation in light of eternity and the gospel.
Another Scripture I meditate on in the battle is Philippians 4:8, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” Thoughts of bitterness and self-pity don’t line up with what Paul commands us to think on in this Scripture. I repeat these exhortations to myself and pray the Spirit would take any thoughts contrary to this captive. By his strength, I can and should push any thought that doesn’t line up with this list out of my mind.
Dear friends, the Word of God is our Sword. We must know it and use it in battle when the Enemy attacks. May we turn our eyes to Jesus and have thoughts that are of him as we battle for joy. May we have joy knowing Christ is using trials to produce godly fruit in in us. From personal experience, I can tell you I wouldn’t be who I am today if it wasn’t for that trial with my mom. I really don’t know if I would be as deeply in love with Jesus, His Word, and ministering to others if it wasn’t for that trial. Dear friends, trust Jesus, whatever you’re facing today, trust Jesus. He’ll be good and faithful to you in your trials.
We ultimately wait for the day when we’ll have no trials. James talks about how we’ll be “perfect and complete, lacking in nothing”. Each trial gets us closer to the holiness Christ calls us to & one day, we’ll be perfect & without any trial. One day, Jesus will wipe every tear from our eye and there will be no more pain and suffering. What a day of rejoicing that will be! We anchor our souls on this hope, and trust the glory that’s coming will indeed make all our earthly struggles seem light and momentary. Praise God!