Consider it Pure Joy

One of my favorite verses, which I was challenged to learn in middle school, is James 1:2-4. It reads,

“Consider it pure joy my brothers whenever you face trials of many kinds for the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its works so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

Can I just say that sometimes doing this can be hard? Like, not only should we persevere through hard things, but we need to do it with joy?

I’ll be honest, in theory this sounds amazing. Like, I would love to always be that girl who easily exudes joy all the time no matter what is happening around her. But internally and in reality, I am not naturally that girl. When something hard happens, my natural tendency is to either avoid the situation, fight the situation or cry. And when I say cry, I mean a lot. It’s not cute.

So, it’s safe to say that my first instinct is not to consider my trials pure joy. However, I believe that as a disciple of Jesus who lives in obedience and partnership with the Holy Spirit, I am offered an alternative. Because of God, I actually have the ability to choose joy in hardship. And if you have to have trials, wouldn’t you rather walk through them with joy rather than sadness? I think that I ultimately would, even when I feel entitled to sadness.

Okay, great. Again in theory, this sounds easy enough. Just choose joy and persevere, yeah? But what does this look like in real life?
 
Funny enough, perseverance doesn’t always look like happiness and smiles. No! I think it’s important to know that when something hard or disappointing happens, it is not only okay but good to feel those emotions. Psalm 34:18 tells us that God is near to the broken-hearted. John 35:11 says that “Jesus wept” over the death of His friend. So, God Himself faced and actively engaged with heartbreak. I think that sometimes we can feel as though God rejects or punishes us for feeling things, but that is not true. He is not mad at you for being human!

Allow yourself to feel and be hurt or angry or sad. However (yes, there is a caveat to this), I implore you to be in control of your emotions rather than allowing them to control you. I think this means that after you engage with whatever is hard, whatever is hurting, you figure out what it looks like to keep moving forward. (Side note: there isn’t a set timeline for this. Trust God, yourself and the people around you to let you know when it’s time to begin this process.)

But considering it pure joy does have to look like joy for part of the process, right? RIGHT! And again, we go back to that question of what does this look like practically? I can’t speak to every person, but I can speak to my life experiences, sooooo that’s what I am going to do!!

First of all, I think this comes from a place of knowing Jesus. Knowing the person He is. That He is all good things and from Him flow all good things. And that even though the circumstances around me are difficult or not going my way, I know that He is good. And fun. And that I literally get to be friends with the best person in the entire universe. And that comes from a place of choosing to spend time with Him. Choosing to enter into the Secret Place with Him. When we know Him, I think joy begins to grow within us. Because no matter what is surrounding us, knowing someone that amazing and who is the giver of joy, begins to reap joy within us.

Another way that this looks for me is ASKING! I ask God all the time to give me joy, to give me perseverance. It is through His goodness and kindness that He gives me the strength to keep going!! Ask, ask, ask, ask, ask and then ask some more. Luke 11 tells us that the Lord loves to answer our needs. So, if you need perseverance or joy, ask!

One of my favorite movies has this line that says something like “Do the next right thing.” (Yes, I am talking about Frozen 2, don’t @ me.) I think often perseverance looks like just doing the next right thing. And I don’t think it’s that there is only one “right thing”. But it’s more like asking what does obeying God look like in this moment? What next step can I take that looks like moving forward?

This can look a million different ways. It can look like getting out of the bed even when it seems impossible. It can look like calling a friend and letting them in. It can look like having that hard conversation. It can look like calling a counseling service for the first time. It can look like making a choice despite pride saying that you’ll look dumb if you make it.
 
And when “doing the next right thing,” please, please, please hear me say that the pressure is off. You don’t have to peg the one perfect thing God is commanding you to do. It’s most just like figuring out what one step of perseverance is and then doing it.

Lastly, ask God for hope. With hope naturally comes perseverance and joy. Because there is something to move toward and look forward to. When hope seems impossible, choose it anyway. Hope is heavenly.

Unfortunately, when it comes to this sort of thing, there is no formula. It will look different for each person, but ultimately it will always begin and end with abiding in Christ. With a lot of space for what that actually looks like in your day-to-day. So, choose God, feel but don’t let your emotions rule you, figure out what your “next right thing is” and let people in.

Author | Hannah Cole

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