Really James? You’re telling your readers to be joyful? How about you? Did you practice joy? What if I told you how sick I am of all the troubles in my life? How am I supposed to live joyfully, James?
Can you relate? Have you ever felt like giving up? You’re tired of things going wrong. Your mind screams, “Why me?” Covered in clouds, colored in gray—looks like another bad day.
For almost twelve years, bad day followed bad day as I experienced estrangement from my daughter. The pain of watching her make bad choices and suffer consequences nearly debilitated me. When I tried to offer advice, arguments resulted. My heart ached. My soul worried. Tears flowed. I begged God to intervene.
We’ve all had those kind of days, possibly lasting for months, even years. James, the writer of the book of James, suffered trials and hardships as well. Being a part of the human race guarantees every one of us an encounter with adversity.
James grew up with Jesus as his half-brother, but he didn’t believe Jesus was who he said he was. Who’s gonna believe a relative, right? Not until Jesus rose from the dead and appeared to him (1 Corinthians 15:7) did James believe in Jesus as Messiah. He became such a firm believer in the salvation of Jesus Christ that he was martyred in A.D. 62, killed for his faith in Jesus. What an incredible hardship to face.
In order to face life’s problems and his own death, James must have practiced joy, the joy of the risen Lord. Practicing joy enabled him to endure under pressure. To have patience when life went wrong. To live in peace when anger and ugliness surrounded him. To face his own death.
His example was Jesus. I’m sure once he saw resurrected Jesus, James remembered humble Jesus who endured persecution all the way to death on a shameful cross. James practiced joy so well he could write about it with confidence, encouraging others to live joyfully.
If life is full of trials and we practice worry, what do we become? Whiny, complaining souls focused on gloom and doom. If we seethe with anger, what do we become? Judgmental and quick to point to all the wrong in the world, lashing out at everyone. If we live in fear of the known or unknown, what do we become? Timid souls afraid to do anything or go anywhere.
So what if we obey God’s Word through James and consider joy in sorrow, hang onto happiness in the midst of hardship, practice delight in the depths of adversity? Believe it or not, we will experience freedom from our burdens. As obedient children of God, we’ll begin to see the good in people and in life. We’ll begin to persevere in problems. We’ll begin to walk in endurance with hope. We’ll trust God with every moment of our lives.
The stress of my family situation progressed to distress until I decided to read and heed God’s Word. Finally I began to comprehend God’s ability and my inability to change things. Surrendering my doubts and fears, I released the horrible situation with my daughter to Him through prayer. Lots of prayer. In time I found joy in my sorrow, strengthened by a loving Heavenly Father.
Try it. Choose joy in the midst of sorrow. Practice with perseverance. Some days it may take a mental fight to remain joyful. But soon you’ll realize your focus has shifted heavenward. Your burdens aren’t as heavy. Your frown has turned upside down. And you are walking in joy, strengthened by the Lord.
Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him. James 1:12 (NASB)