“Count it all joy, my brothers and sisters, when you meet trials of various kinds” (James 1:2). How in the world did James come up with this doozy? When we get stuck on a verse that doesn’t make sense to us, it’s best to keep reading. Notice that “Count it all joy … when you meet various trials” comes up ten verses later as “Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial.” This is a big clue. Biblical writers often formed bookends to make their point.
Of course, the key to understanding their point is what “books” (ideas) are placed between the two bookends?
Book 1: Steadfastness of Character (James 1:3-4). Although no one enjoys trials, God wants to use them to produce a certain result: steadfastness. This Greek word means, “to remain under, to remain beneath the load.” To help illustrate, when our cat chases his tail, Reno’s signaling, “I’m bored. All my toys are under the couch.” Jim must lift the couch and “remain under its load” until I’m done retrieving 10-15 little stuffed mice. Steadfastness is the “staying power to completion”—which is probably why James says, “let steadfastness have its full effect.” You’ll need it AFTER the trial.
Book 2: Prayer-Driven Wisdom (James 1:5-8). “Staying power to completion” requires asking God for wisdom in prayer. Everyone needs wisdom—especially when facing trials. “Why is this happening, God? How long is this shelter in place going to be? How am I going to handle this?” Whatever you ask of God these days, James wants you to keep your faith anchored in the goodness and generosity of God. Prayer for wisdom fuels steadfastness.
Book 3: Reevaluation of Everything (James 1:9-11). Trials often bring economic challenges. Whether you are on the “lowly” or “rich” end of the spectrum, trials teach us to reevaluate the true place of materialism and the realization that spiritual values alone are eternal.
Ah, ha! There is joy in your present trial because it is a perfect opportunity to grow in steadfastness, to seek God’s wisdom, and to reevaluate everything in your life. What a blessing!