What do disappointments, setbacks, problems, disasters and overall trouble have in common?  God sovereignly uses them ALL to conform us to the image of our brother and savior Jesus Christ.  Knowing that the apostle James exhorts us to count all these trials as ‘pure joy’, I invite you to embrace your status and learn with me as members of the Pure Joy Club.

  • Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.  James 1:2-4
  • …. We also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.  Romans 5: 3-4

Recently my dear husband had a disappointing setback, and this added to an on-going unpleasant situation.  On top of that, he came down with a case of impacted sinuses that he can’t shake.  It’s enough to make one not want to get out of bed some mornings!

But even though it is totally normal and legitimate to mourn frustrating and painful turn of events, Christians have to look to God’s Word to draw correct conclusions and know how to live.  Therefore, Mike and I are in the midst of encouraging one another with several truths that pertain to his situation.  He would be the first to admit that this is hard.  That’s why Christian community and prayer support from friends and family who know their Bible really helps.

Our pastor’s sermon Sunday was helpful.  He stressed that NOTHING is out of God’s control and that whatever happens IS the will of God.  The disciples were sad and bewildered to hear Jesus talk about his imminent departure.  But he encouraged their confidence by reassuring them that since He knew what was going to happen, they could trust him and ‘rest’.  Strengthening their faith, Jesus explained, “I have told you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe” John 14:29

Relying on the fact that our Father not only knows but sovereignly controls what happens in our life is hugely reassuring. Other advice can also help us develop a right perspective.  For example, John Piper exhorts, “Don’t waste your cancer”!  By this he means that we can learn from our suffering and grow from the shocking jolt of tragedies.  As one of my colleagues quipped this morning,  “Our ‘crap’ makes good ‘compost’ for growing some very lush & hardy plants later on down the road.”

Tullian Tchividjian (pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church) suggests another use for our trials:

In the crucible of pain, you discover what you really worship.  How is your present trial, suffering, disappointment a window on what has captured your heart?  What do you use to invest your life with meaning?  What you build your life on is your idol.”

Finally, remember we are not alone.  The spirit world watches how we react to life’s trials.  Remember Job?  When God boasted of him, Satan suggested that it was only for the ‘goodies’ from God that Job worshipped Him.  The demons certainly watched closely how Job reacted.  Would he curse God and die as ‘Mrs. Job’ bitingly suggested?  And don’t you think all the members of Job’s community watched him as well?  Our suffering is always more than just about us.  Much is a stake.  We can make it holy, if we offer up our suffering to God as a sacrifice.  Most assuredly this is impossible in our own strength. But we can count on Christ to bear this burden with us.  To God be all the glory!