Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. (James 1:2-4 ESV)
A little over a year into our marriage my wife woke me up in the middle of the night, she was in severe pain. We rushed to the hospital as quickly as we could. I dropped her off at the door where a nurse took her and I parked the car and ran inside. When I finally saw her in the hospital room she was screaming out in pain. I wanted desperately to take her pain away, but there wasn’t anything I could do. The doctors were unable to give her anything for the pain. We could only put a damp rag on her head and tell her to push through the pain. I held her hand and she squeezed it tight… too tight. I was scared. I had never seen her like this before and I was afraid… A few minutes later the pain had lessened as she held our beautiful baby girl in her hands. Her tears of mourning had turned into tears of joy. Our night of terror turned into a morning of joy and celebration.
Similar to our very scary night, the author of the book of James commands Christians to have joy when they encounter tough situations or trials. Our joy does not come from the trials of life, but what our trials produce. Trials and tough situations produce a strong and consistent faith in God. As believers we are not promised a life of comfort, but we are promised a Comforter (John 14:16). We should be joyful when we face trials not because we have trials, but because of what those trials produce. The joy is in the product of the trial, not the trial itself.
It would be foolish to rejoice in knowing that you have cancer. Nobody hopes they get cancer. But when we find ourselves facing something like cancer we can still have joy because we trust God that in His plan that cancer will produce something good (Romans 8:28).
Look at Jesus. The bible says, “For the joy set before Him He endured the cross” (Heb. 12:2). His joy was not in the cross itself, the verse goes on to say that He despised its shame, but His joy was in what the cross produced… the salvation of sinners.