“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds…” (ESV – Read the chapter)
This is a rather jarring beginning to a letter. Count it all joy when you experience trials. Really?!? ALL joy? How? Why?
Look at what comes next. Trials are not neutral-impact events. They cause things to happen in us. How we respond to those things shapes our character. If we respond to challenges by leaning into our Lord and letting His character grow in us, then what we have experienced is a net positive. It can rightly be seen as a blessing; something that should be the cause of, yes, joy.
If, on the other hand, we wilt before the challenge and run deeper into the recesses of sin in our hearts in an attempt to escape it, then it has not done anything of lasting value in us. But, this is not the fault of the trial or the one who set it before us. As James later makes clear, the fault is entirely our own as we have decided to pursue our desires instead of God’s ways. That always leads us into temptation, sin, and, ultimately, death.
This means we have a choice in the midst of the hard. Thus, James’ command here is on point. We need to choose to see the joy and blessing in the midst of our trials. This won’t make them any less trying, but it will transform our attitude about them and radically increase the likelihood that we will see good come out of them. The choice is ours.