By June Pulliam
I was awake most of the night with arthritis-type joint pain. This was my opportunity to put into practice "counting it all joy".
I was thinking about my study of suffering, using a guide by Kay Arthur based on the book of Job. Job never tells us why people suffer, Arthur points out.
To cope with suffering, she says, we aren't to find the immediate cause but instead find out who God is: our Creator, Sustainer and Redeemer, with whom we need a deep, personal relationship. She references James 1:2-4 "Consider it all joy...".
My meditating started there – I’ve always realized that my understanding of what James' words meant was not as deep as I'd like – and I began writing my own thoughts:
In God's presence there is fullness of joy. As we focus upwardly on Him, we become more and more aware of His vibrant presence, and less focused on the trial. Being surrounded by His presence – His light, His love – moves our joy from being only a mental choice, to being a feeling and more – a full experience.
To "count it all joy" or "consider it all joy" (depending on the translation) means to mentally put suffering in the category of joy. We first need to see for what purpose we are doing this.
James’ verse says that the testing of our faith will lead to endurance. It furthermore says that we need to continue to endure, until our endurance has attained its "perfect result" – that we are "perfect and complete, lacking in nothing".
I meditated on this: We can't stop at endurance. God wants us to keep at it until it has its "perfect result". If we endure for a while, even a long while, but then stop, this verse tells us we will lack some things; we will not be perfect or complete.
So then the question is: Will we "count it all joy" when trials come? The thing is … we all count it as something when trials come. The alternative to counting it as joy when we have trials, is to do what most do – count it as disastrous defeat, or a reason to rage and seek revenge.
If we are inwardly focused, we probably count it as pain that makes us feel defeated, depressed, disillusioned, disappointed.
If we are outwardly focused, we probably count it as pain that leads to anger, rage and desire to blame and lash out at others – either those we think responsible, or those who we resent simply because they aren't suffering too.
But if we are upwardly focused, we wisely and courageously count it as joy. We do so in spite of our initial pain, because we are looking not at ourselves, and not at others, but at God, who is our Creator, our Sustainer and our Redeemer. He has a covenant with us to never leave us, and to vindicate us in the end.
Why We Suffer
1. We are God's children, co-heirs with Christ, who first suffered for us. Romans 8:16-18
2. We suffer sometimes so others don't have to. Colossians 1:24
3. It’s evidence that we belong to God and He is refining us. 2 Thessalonians 1:3-8
4. It's sometimes God's will. 1 Peter 2:18-23
5. So we will rely not on ourselves (in our strength or wits to get out of
the problem), but instead, totally on God. 2 Corinthians 1:9
What to Do When Suffering
1. Don't jump to the conclusion God isn't on the job. 1 Peter 4:13
2. Trust God, don't fear. 1 Peter 4:19
3. Be glad you're in the thick of what Christ experienced. 1 Peter 4:14
4. Think of our suffering as a way to be weaned from the sinful habit of always expecting to get our way. 1 Peter 4:1
5. Like Jesus, don't threaten or retaliate. 1 Peter 3:17
6. Continue to do good 1 Peter 4:14
7. Be ready to tell people courteously why we have hope and are living the way we are. 1 Peter 3:17
8. Stand firm. Remember it's not just you, but also Christians all over the world who are suffering.
1 Peter 5: 8-10
Results of Suffering
1. God will restore you and make you strong,
firm and steadfast. 1 Peter 5:10
2. You will be free to pursue what God wants instead of always being so driven to just pursue what we want. 1 Peter 4:2
3. You will be blessed. 1 Peter 3:14
4. You will receive justice later. 2 Thessalonians 1:8
5. You will share in Christ's glory. Romans 8:18