I’ve been a sales trainer for a few years, and one thing has been consistent. When some people show up for training, they’re not happy. They want to know if class is really going to take the full time. By the end of class though, many of them change their attitudes. They’ll walk out and say, “Thanks. I didn’t think I needed this, but I learned something.” Our attitude towards training is much like our attitude towards troubles in life. We don’t want them or see a need for them. However, when we’ve made it through them, we find ourselves stronger.
I think James was trying to make that same correlation for us in James 1:2-3. He wrote, “Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow” (NLT). Joy is usually the last emotion that I pair with troubles and trials, but James says they’re an opportunity for us to have it.
I’ve said before that joy is not dependent on your circumstances, happiness is. Joy comes from deep within. It looks at your big picture, while happiness looks at the little one. Joy is something you choose to have no matter what. Each of us choose our attitude in our circumstances. If we don’t, our circumstances will choose our attitude for us. In most cases, it chooses the wrong attitude. Choosing Joy gives you the strength to endure whatever comes your way.
The second part of that verse is where we get our Joy from. We don’t look at the current trouble, but the end result. What do trials produce in us? Endurance. Verse 4 says, “So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.” If you can train yourself to keep the end in mind, you will learn to handle troubles a lot better. Don’t waste your times of trouble. Use them for what they’re for: growth and endurance. By choosing the wrong attitude, you prolong your time in them, and miss what God has for you. Keep the end in mind, and choose Joy.
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How do you find joy in the middle of a struggle? When your world is caving in on all sides, is it possible to still have peace and strength? I believe it is. We often confuse joy and happiness. They are completely different. Happiness is dependent on circumstances. Joy is not. It is something that lives in you and gives you strength to move forward when you don’t have the strength on your own. It is what keeps you going when everything tells you to quit.
I know what it’s like to struggle to find the will to live each day. I’ve faced things in my life that broke me. My brother would call me every hour just to make sure I was alive. I finally told him that I wasn’t going to give up or give in to everything that was coming against me. Each night as I laid in bed I would repeat Nehemiah 8:10. It says, “The joy of The Lord is your (my) strength.”
In our daily lives we have a choice to make. Are we going to let ourselves be destroyed by our circumstances or we going to endure them? None of us are exempt from having bad things happening to us. None of us are exempt from being dealt one bad thing after another until we reach our breaking point. Happiness will not help you get through them. If your strength is dependent on happiness, you will quickly crumble and fail. Depression will set in and your struggles will be compounded.
Great men of faith on the Bible endured their trials and tests because they kept in mind that the things that were coming against them were not an attack from God. They were tests to prove and strengthen their faith. Each person that endures hardships comes away with a deeper faith and is stronger for it. I found that what helped me was to keep in mind the promises that God had made to me. I think the people in the Bible did the same. They didn’t let their circumstances override what they knew about God. They hung on to the hope of better days ahead.
One of my favorite scriptures that helped me and still does when I go through struggles is Romans 5:3-5. It says, ” We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love. (NLT)”
Whatever you’re going through today, the struggles, the fears, the stresses, God sees you and is building you up. A person who works out doesn’t grow unless they push themselves further than they can go. You cannot get to where God wants you without being stretched. It is tiring. It is painful. It is tearful. You can rejoice and have joy as the scripture says when you are going through things because it still means God is moving you to where He wants you and He knows you can do it.