Just a few days after the death of his wife, Idelette, John Calvin wrote these words expressing the depths of his suffering: “The death of my wife has been exceedingly painful to me . . . . I have been bereaved of the best companion of my life.”
I have suffered much less than others, but even to the degree to which I have experienced suffering, I still find these words of James some of the most arresting in scripture: “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds” (James 1:2).
When trials arise, my first reaction is rarely one of joy but is typically one of “Oh Lord, why me?” or some other expression of frustration or despair. But James calls us to joy. Why?
What many Christians have come to understand is that God, because of His great love for us, disciplines us and allows us to go through difficult times for our ultimate good. James points out the same truth in verses 3 and 4: “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.”
We are called to “count it all joy,” not because of the pain we experience but because of the ultimate end: “That you may be complete, lacking in nothing.”
There is an often told story of a soon-to-be butterfly that is struggling to get out of its cocoon. As the story goes, someone witnessing this struggle wants to help and gently peels open the cocoon only to end up removing the hardship necessary for the insect to become a mature and complete butterfly.
So it is with us: we so often want to view our hardships as nothing but an obstacle toward growth and maturation. However, the trials we experience are from the hand of God and are working to produce steadfastness leading to maturity (vv. 3–4).
The way the Lord works in us through trials is mysterious at times, but let us take comfort in knowing that it is the Lord who is working and because of this, we can “count it all joy.”