When I was a seminary student, a guest speaker came to one of my classes.
Many of the students knew some things about his background: he had recently lost his wife tragically as she was giving birth to their child.
As he stood before the class, he began, “Today I want to talk to you about trials.”
He turned and wrote on the blackboard: “T – R – A – I – L – S.”
Then he turned back to us and started his lecture on trials.
There was a pretty high degree of tension and angst in the classroom.
After all, he
was our guest. And he was talking about something really serious and significant. Would it be rude to tell him that he had misspelled his subject matter on the board?
Finally, one student raised his hand and spoke up: “Sir, I think you made a mistake. You wrote, ‘trails’ instead of ‘trials.’”
Our guest speaker smiled. “There’s no mistake at all,” he said. “Trials
are trails. They either lead you closer to Jesus or further away from Jesus. It all depends on how you respond to them.”
Trials are trails.
I think about those words every time I read James 1:2:
“My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials.
A trial is a time of testing or pressure in our lives. Trials can come from our health, our relationships, our circumstances, our own emotions, and from a lot of
other places as well.
Notice a few things this short verse tells us about trials.
Trials are varied. The word translated “various” can mean
multicolored or variegated. Trials come in all sizes, shapes, and colors. As long as we live, we’ll never run out of trials. Isn’t that encouraging? (Can you hear the trace of sarcasm in my voice?)
We “fall” into trials. Trials don’t call ahead and tell
you they’re coming. They don’t make appointments. Instead, they show up unexpectedly in your life. You may be having a perfectly normal day when you suddenly find yourself falling into a huge trial. Again I ask: Isn’t that encouraging? (The sarcasm increases!)
Trials are inevitable. The Bible doesn’t leave any room
for doubt: You will fall into trials. It doesn’t say, “…
if you fall into various trials.” It says, “…
when you fall into various trials.” You can no more avoid trials in life than you can avoid breathing air. Once more: Isn’t that encouraging?
Followers of Jesus can rejoice in trials. (!?!?) No sarcasm
here. Not even a hint of irony. I’m stone-cold serious because of what the Bible says:
“Count it all joy when you fall into various trials.”
God’s Word is not telling us to enjoy trials. That would be impossible. Nor is God saying that trials are joyful. They aren’t. And God certainly isn’t telling us
to paint a smiley face on our misery and act like everything is wonderful when it isn’t. Doing that will drive you and everyone around you bonkers.
Instead, the Bible is saying that we can “count it” joy when we fall into trials.
So, what does it mean to “count” something joy? The Greek word translated “count” is actually an accounting term. It means to mark something in a ledger.
Here’s what the command, “Count it all joy” means: When you fall into a trial, God wants you to mark it in the joy column of your life. That means to say, “Lord,
while I’m not enjoying this time of pressure, pain, and difficulty, I will choose to rejoice, because I know you are working in, under, above, and through this trial to bless me.”
In the days to come, we’ll talk about some of the blessings God brings into our lives through trials. For now, read the rest of this passage in James 1, and see
if you can’t discover some of those blessings on your own!
Have a great day and keep moving forward!
Suggested Bible Reading
Today as you pray ...
What are some of the trials you are facing today?
Ask God for His grace to rejoice in Him in every trial of your life.
Give thanks to Jesus Christ for enduring the trial of the cross for you.
Pray that God will use your trials as trails to bring you closer to Him.