"Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance." James 1:2
That's the last thing I want to attribute to my trials! They hurt, they're icky, they just throw me in turmoil and disrupt my very joy. At least, that's my initial response--my flesh reaction. In Beth Moore's study on this particular verse, she asks us to pinpoint a current hardship and write down three things we could do with it, the third being "Consider it Joy". Then we write the results from each of those actions. After doing this, the above verse takes on a whole new meaning. I wrote:
1. Compete. Or Fight. This is my very nature as I am a competitive person at flesh (don't really want to say at heart, because it is a huge stumbling block for me!). Whether it be a comparison game with someone on the same path as me, or a game of "that's unfair" that makes me put up my fists, my initial reaction to a trial is taking that "I'll show you" attitude and shoving it in the face of that trial. For years, I felt this was the best thing to do. To work at being better that that person, showing them up, to debate and fight and slather my opinion all over a Facebook status or mass email. YUCK. This only wears me out. And it severs relationship with people...Love your neighbor as yourself flies the coop and leaves me in a nest of turmoil and defeat. Because even if I do win, it's a definite loss for my character.
2. Criticize. Oh how I can be the world's best critic. Especially when I feel competition swelling in me. When a trial comes along, I can point fingers, blame others, knock those down whose words might present the trial in the first place, complain about my circumstance to all around me, and just grow bitterness in my heart quicker than I can say, "Woe is me!" Again, this goes back to defiling God's greatest commandment-- to Love. When I cut others down, or focus on the negative of a trial, I fill my heart with anything but love. I deflate my heart, and prepare a long-term garden of tangled thorny hate.
3. But if I Consider it all Joy? What then? What if I take the idea of joy in the face of a trial, sacrifice my flesh response and replace it with the joy of knowing that some how, some way, God is going to take this trial and get me toward the next part of this segment of Scripture:
"And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing." James 1:4
It's all a journey, isn't it? If I can look at the hardships, the gunk of this world, and consider it joy that God cares that much about my heart to make something GOOD come from it...to give me the endurance, the peace, the refinement to bring me closer to the perfect maturity in Him...then isn't that something to be joyful about? Sure, the trials stink, they hurt, they try to destroy us...but if I consider it Joy to know that through those trials I will come closer to a heart worth presenting to God at the end of this journey, then I can rest in the midst of my temporary hardships and know that Joy is worth considering.