When was the last time you experienced it?
We generally associate joy with holidays and time spent with the people and the activities we enjoy. The Apostle James starts his letter with a statement that strikes us as strange: “My brothers and sisters, you will face all kinds of trouble. When you do, think of it as pure joy.”
James isn’t talking about the experience of enjoyment but rather the mindset of pure joy. Pure means unadulterated, no additives. The word ‘joy’ in the Bible doesn’t mean a ‘grin-and-bear-it’ kind of pious tolerance. It really does mean your ‘cup-runneth over’ kind of joy.
According to James, the real change that must take place in all of us is a rehabilitated outlook and attitude. Outlook determines outcome, and attitude determines action. God's ultimate outcome is to conform us into the image of His Son. God wants to produce a family likeness in us. This means that some difficulties and testings will show immediate results, while others will produce long-term ones.
There have been many times when I have surfaced from a difficult time, and been able to see immediately what I learned from that experience. But there have been other times when all I can do is shake my head and ask, "What was that all about?" I may not be able to tell you (at that moment) what I have learned. But what has happened, maybe unnoticed by me, is that I have become a little bit more like Jesus. It may be hard or impossible to point to definitive results in our lives after a time of pressure, setbacks, or testing. Even so, we can know that God is in control. And we can know that His ultimate purpose is to conform us into the image of His own dear Son.
So let me encourage you to reconsider the troubles and tests you are facing right now and focus on the God’s ultimate outcome - that you become more like Jesus.
Grace and Peace,