Are we really supposed to find joy during trials and temptations?

Jas 1:2-3 (ESV) Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.

This is kind of a bogus question. Jas 1:2 tends to be a poorly understood passage because of the word translated “when.” Many people somehow think you should enjoy the experience of a trial or temptation. That is not what James is saying. It is more appropriate to think of the word “when” as referring to the result of the trial, not necessarily the experience as it is happening. The trial isn’t the joyful part; rather the joy is found in the result of the trail.

I know people who have a lot of trouble with God because they think they’re supposed to be happy when they get hit in the face with five flavors of dung slung by five different people. Some read this and suppose God gave them the hard way to go and they’re supposed to be happy anyway. Nonsense. God has a magnificent way of taking manure and turning it into something beautiful. Satan destroys, but God creates. It takes fertilizer to grow a flower. If you only had sunshine, would the crops ever yield? You don’t have to like the rain, you don’t have to like the fertilizer, and you don’t have to like to the trials and temptations. God uses (but does not necessarily create) the problems we face to make us grow in our faith and grow closer to Him. If we react as we’re instructed in this passage we will grow in our perseverance and we will one day lay hold of the prize (1 Cor 9:24).

Rev 3:18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see.

Mal 3:2-3 But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, and they will bring offerings in righteousness to the Lord.

Certainly being the silver or gold going through the refinement isn’t a lot of fun. It’s the high quality product at the end of the process in which God is interested (thus we should be interested). God seeks perfection. We aren’t perfect. When we love God, letting Him refine us and accepting His refining process, we become purified. His grace is the staple of this and the atoning blood of Jesus provides the opportunity for this grace.

This post is an excerpt from my book Ask James one.

About Lance Ponder

Christian author of "Ask James one"; public speaker; husband and father. Available to speak on Creation and the Gospel.
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3 Responses to Are we really supposed to find joy during trials and temptations?

  1. Todd Beal says:

    I absolutely agree with your assessment of this scripture passage. I have learned time and again since the fall of 1997 that dealing with life sucks, but when I fix my eyes on truth and refuse to remove my focus, I eventually leave that tunnel of “perceived” darkness and emerge on the other side a transformed man. “Bring it on”, I have said, because I know what waits for me on the other side, pure sunlight and a brand new day.
    I know this sounds like pie in the sky and rosy thinking but I’m telling you, pain and suffering lasts only for a while, and in its wake, the personal transformation that truth provides lasts forever. A weight lifter or long-distance runner doesn’t relish the intermediate pain of overcoming the odds, but knows through experience that within every hard test lies the potential for long-term growth, if he or she will accept its necessity.
    If we take our eyes off suffering and fix our focus firmly on truth, we will see our previously unseen personal growth instead of our perceived detrimental ongoing circumstance.

    • Lance Ponder says:

      Yeah, they say attitude is everything. I’ve just recently been given a very special gift – reverence. I’m learning all about it. It is an element of my calling. In fact, it is at the core and foundation of what God has established for me and I believe for others in the faith also. Reverence is the attitude. It drives our focus, prepares us, makes authentic worship in spirit and truth possible, and turns our rags into something pleasing to God. Reverence is the difference between Cain and Able and between Jacob and Esau and a number of other similar contrasting sets of individuals in scripture. I concur completely with everything you’ve said. The pain and suffering are for our benefit and God’s glory and ultimately the blessings will consume the suffering and we will be better for it. Thanks for sharing your testimony. That means a lot to me and hopefully to other readers as well.

      • Todd Beal says:

        Lance, I feel profound humility and a complete dissolution of pride when I read your examples of reverence. I have felt that reverence before and I believe that is what God is referring to in the Bible when he says fear God (the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom); not as in fearful or frightening, but as an awesome reverence. It is the absolute recognition that he alone provides our very existence, the source of each breath, and that he alone holds absolute power over everything. Just putting myself in that personal state takes me off my high-horse and makes me want to fall on my face and worship him.

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