Sometimes Christians believe that once they have been accepted into the Kingdom of God, their lives will be problem free. When this turns out not to be true, they begin to wonder why, and ask questions like "Is it something I've done? Am I really a Christian? Why are all these bad things happening to me if God loves me? Is He really there?" The Bible is clear that trials are part of life. Sometimes they are a result of the general effects of sin in the world. Sometimes we bring hardship on ourselves through our own sin. Sometimes trials are given to us by God to grow our faith. Regardless of the reason, we can endure trials with joy, knowing that God will use them to test our faith and make us strong (James 1:2–4; 1 Peter 1:3–9). The person who faces trials is being treated as a child of God, and God is a loving, attentive Father—He brings discipline to our lives in order to teach us and make us righteous (Hebrews 12:7–11).
James says we are to "consider it pure joy" when we face trials (James 1:2 NIV). He goes on to explain, "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" (James 1:3–4). Similarly, Peter writes, "In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ" (1 Peter 1:6–7). For believers in Christ, being conformed into His image is our desire. Rather than look at trials as meaningless suffering, we can look at them as opportunities to grow in faith. When Paul had a thorn in his flesh, he prayed for God to remove it. God responded, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness" (2 Corinthians 12:9). Paul's reply: "Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me" (2 Corinthians 12:9). Often during times of trial we draw closer to God and experience His love and power in deeper ways. This is cause for great joy.
Does it mean we should not pray for our trials to end? No. The point of the Christian life is not to endure as much suffering as we can. Rather, it is to know God and to be conformed to the image of Christ (2 Timothy 2:12–13; Romans 8:29–30). Sometimes suffering is part of that (2 Timothy 3:12; 1 Peter 4:12–14). Suffering is also simply a reality of living in a world marred by sin. It is appropriate to pray for our trials to end. In fact, we see examples of people praying for an end to trials throughout the Bible, such as Job, David, and Paul. Even Jesus prayed that, if possible, He would not have to endure the cross. Yet He submitted His will to the Father and endured that suffering to bring salvation to us (Luke 22:39–46). The writer of Hebrews tells us that Jesus endured "for the joy that was set before him" (Hebrews 12:1–2). We can pray for trials to end while still having joy in the midst of the hardships, submitting our wills to God and asking Him to use any life circumstances for our good and His glory.
Does having joy in trials mean we are supposed to be all smiles and dismissive of hardship, even when we are suffering? No. A person can experience joy and suffering simultaneously. Having joy does not mean we disregard the painful things in life. Rather, it means we look at them with a godly perspective, trusting that God is with us in them and that He can use them to His glory and for our ultimate good (Romans 8:28–39). We can weep (Romans 12:15) and also "rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer" (Romans 12:12). Our joy is founded on hope in Christ, not on pleasant life circumstances. Our joy in trials is an attitude of a heart resting in Jesus Christ. Ultimately, joy is a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22–23). The Holy Spirit indwells believers, and His joy is always there, just as He has promised always to be with us (Hebrews 13:5–6).
We can have joy in trials because we are sure of the character and promises of God. This world is not our final home (Philippians 3:20–21). We do not grieve over loss as those without hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13). Instead, we trust that our Savior is returning. Trials do not derail our life purpose because worldly ease is not the goal of our lives. Eternal joy is just around the corner for the one who endures through the trials and futility of this world (Matthew 24:13; 2 Timothy 4:8). We are like captives traveling through an underground escape tunnel toward a safe place. As we hold onto Christ, He literally pulls us through this dark place until we emerge in our final and eternal Home. And when we get there, we will have what has been promised: "in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore" (Psalm 16:11). Sorrow and trials are part of this world, but the joy of the Spirit is the knowledge that God redeems the suffering of this world for good purposes and that the next world will be a place of unending happiness, where every tear is wiped away (Revelation 21:4).
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