“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” — James 1:2-4
To be honest, I don’t believe I’ve ever seen anyone really joyful when they were going through a trial or a testing of their faith. But God says it’s necessary to go through difficult times in order for us to become “mature and complete” in our faith. I think the reason that we’re not always “happy campers” when we go through trials is because we have a tendency to equate being “happy” with being “joyful.” And that’s where, I believe, we make our mistake. Being happy is certainly not wrong, but happiness is more equated with pleasure than with pain or maturity and being happy is usually very temporary.
We’re happy when we get a raise—but it doesn’t take us long to spend it. Then we want another raise. We’re happy when we can buy a new car, but that new car smell doesn’t take long to go away plus the value of that new vehicle depreciates faster than the fall of the stock market on a Black Monday. We’re happy when we can buy a new home but how long before we want to remodel because it’s too small or not up to date?
Joy on the other hand, certainly can include happiness but joy comes with an eternal value because, in the spiritual sense, joy comes as a result of God doing something in my life that I couldn’t (or wouldn’t) do for myself to make me better. God is maturing me so that I can become a complete person. I suspect He is doing the same in your life as well.
I recently read that the command that is repeated most often in the Bible is, “Rejoice.” To rejoice means to have joy, to be joyful, or full of joy. We are commanded to be joyful, not for God’s sake but for ours. Joy is more than mere positive thinking or pumping oneself up with compliments and encouragement. Joy has at its root God’s own nature. To rejoice is to recognize that we have a reason to be encouraged because God is on our side and has heartily and joyfully embraced us as His own! So be joyful, saints of God because our Lord thinks we’re so special that He wants to make us even better.
One final thought on Joy from A. W. Tozer: “The Christian owes it to the world to be supernaturally joyful.”