“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds” (James 1:2)
Trials carry a negative connotation, however the word is used. Legal trials are anxiety producing and menacing. Time trials stretch us to the extreme and place us in opposition to other athletes. Trials of life weigh us down, rob us of peace, and threaten our security. By their nature, trials provoke unpleasantness and hardship.
Yet James looks us in the eye and with a straight face tells us to consider it all joy when we meet trials of various kinds. Isn’t joy reserved for something or someone we’re glad to see? Meeting with a good friend we haven’t seen in a while, that’s cause for joy. Receiving a passing grade on a big test, that’s cause for joy. Hearing the oncologist say the scan shows no more sign of cancer, that’s cause for joy. But trials!
Clearly, believers are to meet trials with a smile that belies the hardship they bring.
The pilot light of joy that burns constant with faith in Christ is to erupt in flame with the winds of trials. In a moment James will introduce us to the reason with the words, “for you know.” But for now we can affirm the constant message of Scripture that our God is sovereign and that He does all things well.
“Every joy or trial falleth from above, traced upon our dial by the Sun of love.” So declares Frances Havergal in her classic hymn, “Like a River Glorious.” Those words recognize the hand of a sovereign God who governs all that comes to pass. Everything that happens in our lives is consistent with the character of our God and serves His perfect purposes for us. We have only to regard our Lord Jesus, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross.
God’s purpose carried by the trial means that we are not simply to resign ourselves to them. We are to rejoice in them.
“Sovereign Father, take hold of me. Bless and keep me in the fray.”