What satisfies you? And what makes you happy? Is it your job? Your possessions? Your home, your car, your family, your bank account? I’ve had a great job. I’ve had a big house, full of nice things. I’ve had a husband who loved me, a bulging bank account, a fun vehicle to do road trips and exploring. But was I happy? We had our moments, but we were constantly looking for something more. The prophet Isaiah tells us:
“Why do you spend money for what is not bread, And your wages for what does not satisfy? Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, And delight yourself in abundance.” Isaiah 55:2 NASB1995
All of those things, those actions, gave us temporary happiness, but none of it gave us – gave me – lasting Joy. In all of this, there were people and circumstances that hurt us. Some were unintentional, but some was very intentional. Anger and resentment stole my joy. It took several years and lots of hurt to find the place where I could hear the words of Jesus and let them soothe my bleeding heart. One of the first things necessary to healing is to learn to let the resentment go. Forgiveness….
“If you forgive the sins of any, their sins have been forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they have been retained.” Jesus said to him, “Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.” John 20:23, 29 NASB1995
“Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.” Ephesians 4:31-32 NASB1995
“Rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him; Do not fret because of him who prospers in his way, Because of the man who carries out wicked schemes. Cease from anger and forsake wrath; Do not fret; it leads only to evildoing.” Psalms 37:7-8 NASB1995
I think that many times we go searching for our joy and happiness in the things I’ve talked about above to cover up the anger and frustration we have with others. By covering up and ignoring those feelings, trying to hide it – or outrun it – we are only hurting ourselves. We want joy. We want peace. We want the hurting and the anger and the fear and frustration to just stop.
We WILL have trials in life. People will hurt us. They will leave us, they will disappoint us. Circumstances will change. This fallen world will hurt us. Expect it. The trials we go through are crucial to our maturity in Christ. They allow God to do His greatest works. They produce steadfastness in us. I don’t like what James says here, but he’s right.
“Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” James 1:2-4 NASB1995
He says “Consider it all joy” – how is that possible? It’s actually very simple. Joy is a state of mind; we make the CHOICE to Rejoice. Joy is found solely and completely in the recognition of the Sovereignty of God. We are not alone, he says “my brethren” and he means we are connected, sons and daughters through God the Father, and brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ. He reminds us that when we encounter all of the various trials, we know that they are the “testing”, like when gold and silver are subjected to fire to remove the impurities. Our testing will be unpleasant, uncomfortable, and painful but it will REFINE our faith.
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you…” 1 Peter 1:3-4 NASB1995
READ verses 5-9, too! Endurance is an active hope, a living Hope in and through Jesus Christ our LORD. When it takes everything we have to hold on, even when it seems all hope is gone. Remember Isaiah 53:7, “He was oppressed and He was afflicted….” Your faith produces endurance living by and for GOD, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing when we see Him. God prunes us so that we may be more fruitful, and to bring Him Glory; to deepen our dependence on Him and NOT to be be independent and dependent on ourselves. It is through dependence on God that we find true independence, and that is when we will find true happiness, satisfaction, and joy! Trials bring us closer to God “by breaking and subdividing the stubbornness of our hearts.” – Daniel Dyke, an English academic and Puritan. The proper Christian response to trials is to be a source of joy.
“…. for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.
Philippians 4:10-13 NASB1995