Crazy Counsel

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. (James 1:2-3)

How would you respond to the following situations?

  • Your little girl has the flu, keeping both you and her up all night.
  • Your 401k is tanking and it appears that you won’t be able to retire until age 144.
  • A highway accident backs up traffic for two miles and you’re bringing up the rear.
  • You’re diagnosed with chronic arthritis.
  • You discover that your mother has terminal cancer.

Let me tell you how I would be tempted to respond. Complaining. Ranting. Raging against God. Demanding better. Throwing a colossal self-pity party. I don’t like trials. Not big ones or small ones.

But then I read James and find myself confronted with what appears to be the counsel of a madman. But it’s not. It’s the command and counsel of the living God. I’m to count all trials (that’s all in case you missed it) as all joy.

I’m to count every trial as joy. Not just the big, life-crisis, call-all-the-family trials. Even the little, I-can’t-believe-my-son-just-puked-again trials.

Why? Because trials test my faith. Tested faith is steadfast faith. Steadfast faith doesn’t waver in the face of trials. It doesn’t quiver at the prospect of three months without pay, or three weeks in the hospital, or three days of the chicken pox. Steadfast faith is confident in the extravagant goodness of God and his unwavering faithfulness.

Trials are a fire that harden and temper my faith. That’s why I’m to count them as all joy. God is using every difficulty – from diaper rashes to chronic illnesses – to draw me deeper into him.

As you go to work, or homeschool your kids, or lay sick in bed, let this truth encourage and comfort you. All trials, all joy.

  • Wendy

    This is such a hard thing to remember in the midst of the trial. It is sometimes helpful to me to look back and remember the things that God has taught me through previous trials. I have a tendency toward pity parties (strange- no one ever wants to come to this kind of party), so it helps to remember what God has taught me in the past and then to stop and look around for what might be the purpose of my current trial. As it says in James- God’s purpose is to create a steadfast faith in Him.

  • Ron Reffett

    I wish that I could say that when trials come my way that I welcome them, thanking the Lord for the trials and for the strength that He provides while experiencing various tests and griefs. The song Every Day from Come Weary Saints comes to mind. Knowing that God enters into our trials with us, He doesn’t leave us to experience them alone. The end result is much like in weight training, there’s a lot of tearing and pain in your muscles, the end result is strength and transformation.
    I really needed this today, thank you for the very encouraging words, they came as usual…right on time!
    Ron Reffett

  • Jessica

    What a beautiful reminder- count it all joy. Thanks for posting that.

  • Emily

    the first thing I thought when I read this post is the same thing i’ve been thinking for weeks… “I don’t want to give thanks. I don’t want trials to continue, I want them to end.”

    then i read this post. and then i read James 1. Sometimes its easy to think we’re just supposed to give thanks because that’s the thing to do. but no, James says its because God is working, He does not change like the shadows. that’s why i’m supposed to give thanks. not because i like my trials but because I know my God is faithful to care for me through each of them.

    thanks. i really needed to hear this today.

  • Stephanie

    Thanks, Stephen, for another rockin’ post.
    Seriously, I am thankful for God’s providence and His use of you and your dad to write truths. It is encouraging and provoking to know that even as you are being “squeezed” while at the PC, you’re seeking and finding joy, in faith. We’re praying for you.

  • Emily

    needed that. phew, how I needed that. Thank you!

  • Rachel Dulaney

    Thanks for this very timely post Stephen! I just tore some ligaments in my very weak right ankle on Sunday and I’m facing starting school again in my very hilly campus, not being able to work for at least this whole week, if not next, and in general being quite limited in the things that I can do. But the Lord is good and has a plan in all of this! :]

  • Stephen Altrogge

    Wendy – I think that’s a great perspective…remembering what God has done in the past and then seeing what God might be doing in the current trial. Although sometimes we can’t even see what God is doing and we just have to trust his faithfulness.

    Ron – Great example with the weight training. So painful yet so good in the end.

    Jessica – So glad it was helpful for you!

    Emily – I can relate to not wanting to give thanks. That’s why I’m so grateful for the counsel of scripture that reminds me of what’s really happening in every trial.

    Stephanie – Thanks for your prayers! We miss you guys too!

    Emily – So glad it was helpful for you.

    Rachel – I’m sorry you hurt your ankle! Aren’t you grateful that God does have a plan in the midst of this.

  • lisa

    thanks for the clarity and the reminder.

  • Mark

    As a sufferer of chronic pain, I find that part of the “trial” comes in others not being able to realize the pain in which you suffer. So much of chronic pain is hidden (there is no visible malady) and others tend to forget that you are hurting. This also leads to the temptation of hosting a pity party for yourself – not the proper thing to do in the midst of the trial. Romans 5 is also a good reminder of how to behave in the midst of the trial.
    Thanks for the reminder!
    God bless,