I've been around church for awhile now but it wasn't until recently that I have began to understand more clearly the beauty of the Bible. Seriously, it's amazing. Think about it! 66 books written by 40+ authors in over 1,500 years, all outlining the incredible story of how God loves us. The Bible is great and it truly is valuable to anyone who reads it –– christian and non-christian alike. But... when it starts to tell me to be happy when crappy things happen to me –– that's when it gets weird.
"Count it all joy, my brothers,"
Hold up! James, you're telling us to count it all joy? But dude, you can't be serious. Everything? Like even when my girlfriend cheats on me? I can't count that one as joy. What about when I get fired from my job? That isn't something I want to rejoice in. Or what happens if I get into a car crash and my 4 year old daughter flies through the windshield and dies? Woah... James better not want me to count that one as joy... but he does. James is clear that everything should be counted as joy. The things we naturally find good as well as the things we wish we could forget. We can't just pick and choose which things count as joy and which ones don't. The verse continues:
"when you meet trials of various kinds,"
Notice how it doesn't give specifics. That is because "various kinds" applies to, well, all of them. All types. All levels of trials. James is saying, "Yes, rejoice in the good. Rejoice in the bad. And rejoice in the absolutely terrible." But why? Pastor, author, and theologian, John Piper, explains it this way: "God loves faith so much that he will test it to the breaking point so as to keep it pure and strong." God loves us so much that he is willing to allow (Not cause, but allow) us to go through terrible situations so that next time we're in the valley, we can rest in the truths of scripture and promises of God. The Apostle Paul speaks on the subject of suffering in his letter to the Church of Corinth. He says in 2 Corinthians 1:8-9, "We do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead."
"for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness."
This is the purpose of suffering. So that it would produce steadfastness in our faith. Side note: steadfastness means to remain, or firmness. There is a good that comes from suffering. And that 'good' is faith. So next time you feel like you're in hell and that God has left you for dead, don't worry, you're in good company. Paul felt that way too. The purpose of your pain is so you "rely not on [yourself] but on God" who doesn't leave you for dead, but "who raises the dead."
When your faith is tested, your faith is strengthened.