Christians are instructed to count their trials as joy. What if we started to look at them as a gift?
Since the fall of man, struggle has been ingrained in our existence. We can’t shake it, no matter how much we would like to. Since we can’t avoid struggle, we then only have the choice of what to do with it. In James chapter one, Christians are told to consider it pure joy when faced with trials of many kinds. Job’s life story as recorded in the Bible gives us a view into extreme perseverance and faithfulness to God amidst extreme circumstances.
I have a challenge for you and me: let’s start viewing struggle as a gift.
I’ve been through struggles recently. I’m not going to share any details here, but I will say that they weren’t enjoyable. I’ve never found pleasure in struggle, and I don’t think anyone should find pleasure in the actual struggle and pain. That just isn’t healthy. So to consider our trials to be a gift, we need to step back and see the bigger picture and the roles that these difficulties play in our lives. Without displeasure, we wouldn’t fully be able to appreciate pleasure. Without the concept of low, we wouldn’t have the concept of high. The bad only elevates the good, and it is in fact necessary even to experience the good. We can’t pick and choose facets of our experience. We have to embrace all or none of it. Otherwise we will fruitlessly spend our lives running from what is inevitable. Struggle sets the context by which we enjoy the best moments of our lives.
We can think this way because of the hope that we have in Jesus. We as Christians can live with the hope of a life redeemed by Christ’s death and resurrection. Moreover, we can live with the knowledge that God’s Spirit dwells within us, redeeming the unsavory parts of our lives before our death and ultimate glorification. We won’t see the totality of our lives redeemed while we are here on earth. This is a harsh reality that we have to learn to accept. But we can rest in the assurance that God is trustworthy and will ultimately make use of our messy lives. Struggle is a building block and a tool which we can offer to God so he can shape us into whatever would be most fitting for his divine plan.
This isn’t a message promoting masochism. You shouldn’t bring struggle on yourself, and you shouldn’t find the actual pain to be joyful. Rather, we need to choose joy when trials come naturally; and they will.
So, when viewed in this way, struggle is one of the most valuable gifts that we can receive. It shapes our experience and our existence into something redemptive. But, like a gift, we can’t choose our struggles. We don’t have any control over what they are or when they come to us. So our only area of control is in our response. Will we merely “grin and bear it”? Will we be defeated? Or will we embrace our trials as a blessing? I certainly hope that you and I can begin to make the hard but right choice. And, after forming a discipline of choosing joy, the choosing will begin to become easier.