Wow, I could hardly sleep at all last night. I read this passage so many times yesterday and was looking for insight to begin my bible study of the book of James. Each time I read it, I noticed something different (which is proof enough for me that the Bible is alive! And if I needed even more confirmation, I can consult the following scripture which tells me
“For the word of God is living and powerful…”
Hebrews 4:12 NKJV
The Bible is alive! We may at different times find things more powerful than at other times; we may interpret what its saying differently. And since I want to “dissect” this particular group of scriptures, I expect that I will have different interpretations and feelings on what I am reading depending on my personal experiences, similar to scripture may speak to you differently than me.
It was this group of scripture which first caught my eye and shifted my attention from the study of Revelations.
2Dear brothers and sisters, whenever trouble comes your way, let it be an opportunity for joy. 3For when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. 4So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be strong in character and ready for anything.
(James 1:2-4 NLT)
That’s so much easier said than done, right? But, something that really spoke to me was the “let it be an opportunity for joy.” I consider this an attitude or my own personal reaction to circumstances. I cannot control troubles that come my way, but I can control my reaction to them. This “let it be” phrasing is an attitude that we can all adapt to our lives and circumstances. Am I saying it will be easy? Absolutely not! It may even feel humanly impossible, “but with God EVERYTHING is possible (Matt 19:26 NLT)
When I was going through some of the troubles I faced, I couldn’t wrap my head around the idea that those circumstances would eventually bring me joy. Romans 5:3 told me “we glory in tribulations also; knowing that tribulation worketh patience” (KJV) “No offense Lord, but my patience didn’t need anymore working,” I felt. I was so distracted by the “tests of my faith” that I couldn’t see anything besides the hurt. I didn’t have a thankful heart, and if I’m honest, I couldn’t have cared any less about growing my endurance in that moment. All I was certain of was the hurt I felt. I had no idea how to be “joyful” when I felt so….sad or angry or mad (insert your own emotion here).
James 2-4 is trying to show us that there is a process in circumstances. It looks something like this:
Troubles/Tests = Opportunity for Reaction = Patience/Endurance=Joy
Like any other process (the grieving process, for instance), does it necessarily happen in this order? No. Sometimes we have Tests and don’t even have time to plan an appropriate reaction when our faith is tested once more, or several more times. Patience and Endurance are not instantaneous. However, we have to focus on our ultimate prize: Joy.
So basically, I have surmised that the “how” and the “why” can be explained in these two scriptures:
How: Tweak my attitude or “opportunity” to be joyful
Why: My end result will be JOY, even if I can’t see it now or how it possibly could be in the future
Something that I wasn’t aware of, and maybe you aren’t either, is that the Bible makes a distinction between the words “joy” and “happiness.” Joy is “the stronger and the more spiritually dynamic of the two emotions” (Barker). I found a really great article on Joy here if you want to know more.
Have a blessed Thursday!