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Pure Joy

Pure Joy

Editor’s note: You are invited to join us for the James Online Bible Study by Margaret Feinberg starting April 22nd


Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds.James 1:2 NIV

I don’t know what you’re facing, but to be honest, the last few years have been ridiculously challenging for me. My closest friends have looked at my husband Leif and me and said, “It just doesn’t stop for you two!” 

We’ve faced unprecedented challenges in our work, our relationships, and our finances. In a 12-month period, I managed to get Covid three times, the flu once, tear the labrum in my shoulder, and get E. coli. 

This low-grade (and sometimes high-grade) storm of life that went on far too long left me feeling worn down.

I share vulnerably because I know some of you can relate.

Meanwhile, some of you have been weathering storms of life that don’t let up.

You’re tired from caring for aging parents or sick family members.

You’re exhausted from pinching every last penny, so you don’t fall off that financial cliff. 

You’re worn out from trying to find the right doctor, the right meds, the right diagnosis that will make you finally feel better.

And some of us are just worn out from living in the midst of a technological revolution where the world we live in is being radically transformed right before our eyes. The systems that were once familiar are now obsolete.

And so maybe you feel disconnected, separated, isolated, discouraged.

If that’s you, Jesus’ brother James has a message of hope for you today.

James says,

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds.James 1:2

Now that is a loaded verse.

When James says “Consider it pure joy,” he’s not pointing to an emotional response, but something deeper. This pure joy is untainted, and it comes from God, in whose right hand there are pleasures forever.

Notice that James doesn’t say one trial, he says trials — plural — of “many kinds.

This is significant, because right off the bat, James is upending dangerous beliefs that can slip into all of our lives — and I know them because they have slipped into mine.

The first dangerous belief is:

  • That hardship happens to other people, not me.

Have you ever thought that?

Maybe you were raised in a household where you were taught:

Other people get divorced, but that would never happen in our family — until it does.

Other people’s children go hog wild and turn away from God, but that would never happen to my kids — until it does.

Or other people struggle with addiction or depression or anxiety or sorting through sexual identity, but that would never happen to me or those I love — until it does. 

I was raised in a family where it was often said that other people get cancer, but not us — we’ve got good genes. Then, at 39, I was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer. Less than 3 months later, my dad was, too. We battled cancer side by side, and though there is no evidence of cancer today in either of us, it shattered my illusion.

There’s nothing quite like that moment when a false belief, an illusion, is shattered by the realities of life.

This is dangerous because when hardship happens, you may be tempted to believe that God has deserted you, that God is against you, that God never really loved you.

When nothing could be further from the truth.

+ God is for you.

+ God goes before you.

+ God is with you.

+ God will never leave you nor forsake you.

+ God’s love for you is unchangeable, immovable, and unrelenting.

Sometimes we see people’s faith implode… they walk away from God completely. 

And James doesn’t want this to happen to anyone. 

So do not be shocked, do not be caught unaware, do not dare think those things only happen to other people or those things won’t happen to me because I’m a follower of Jesus.

  • To consider it pure joy, then, means that whenever it looks like it’s all falling apart, turn to the One who holds all things together. 

Our tendency is to respond to the visible, but James wants us to know that something invisible, something that can’t be seen or measured, is happening.

Because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.James 1:3-4 NIV

How do we count it pure joy? Not by focusing on the crisis, but by redirecting our gaze to the greater work God is accomplishing.

When hardship happens, whether it’s a battle with depression, a blood curling disease, a divorce, or the loss of someone we love, often that crisis and all its tendrils become the centerpiece of our lives.

In my own struggles, I’ve sensed Holy Spirit whisper, “You can either cling to the crisis or you can cling to Christ, but you do not have arms big enough for both.”

No matter what you’re facing, Jesus invites you to wrap not just your arms, but your hearts and minds fully around Him. 

Remember, friends, even when you can’t see it, God is at work.

Written for FaithGateway by Margaret Feinberg, author of James: What You Do Matters.

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Your Turn

Are you going through something you’d never thought was possible? What you do matters! Lean on Jesus, only Him. God is at work even though you don’t see it right now. Come join us for the James OBS! ~ Devotionals Daily