James 1:2 My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations;
Notice that James assumes we will experience trials – He does not say “if” but “when.” This is because Christians must expect trials. Jesus said in John 16:33, These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.
Some trials come simply because we are human: sickness, accidents, disappointments, death. Other trials come because we are Christians (I Peter 4:12; II Timothy 3:12). Because Satan fights against us and the world opposes us, we can expect trials.
What then should be a Christian’s response to trials?
James tells us to Count it all joy – What does James mean by this? What does count it all joy when ye fall into trials mean?
First, let’s clarify what it does not mean. James does not mean that we are to have an all-encompassing joyful emotional state during severe trials and situations. He is not demanding that we enjoy our trials. James knows all too well, as the writer of Hebrews put it, that no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: (Hebrews 12:11)
What James is doing here is commending the conscious embrace of a Christian understanding of life which leads to a sense of joy, even in the midst of trials, not joy over trials.
So to Count it all joy – means to make a deliberate and careful decision to experience joy even in times of trouble. Is this even possible? According to Scripture it is:
II Corinthians 7:4b I am filled with comfort, I am exceeding joyful in all our tribulation.
Acts 5:40-41 And when they had called the apostles, and beaten them, they commanded that they should not speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. And they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name.
Acts 16:25 At midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them.
James is telling us with this command count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations that when we feel alienated, when we feel unwanted, when we are under the pressure of troubles and burdensome situations, that we can have a sense of comforting joy even in those great difficulties and trials.
But how is this possible?
There is only one right answer – it is only possible through Jesus Christ. He is able to flow His joy through us right when we need it the most. James is not saying that trials are good in themselves. But there is a joy that is independent of circumstances, which may be found in remembering God’s sovereign purposes and trusting our Savior. For in Him, through Him, and because of Him, we truly can count it all joy when we fall into troubles and trials.