May 07, 2023

Joy in the Face of Suffering

James 1:1-12

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

—  James 1:2

Students sometimes receive lower grades on papers and exams than they have hoped for. Disappointment can lead to frustration and anger. Fear may enter the picture as well: “Because of this low mark, will I lose my place in my program or be suspended from my sports team?”

Students are not the only ones who face difficult and challenging situations. The loss of a job, strained relationships at home, and pressures at work can bring a great deal of stress into our lives. We also struggle when we get sick, or when a family member or friend becomes ill. There is also the heart-wrenching pain of persecution, which remains a reality in our world.

James urges us to “consider it pure joy” when we face ­trials and struggles in our lives. What? This is certainly one of the most challenging commands in the Bible. But James explains that trials and sufferings in the lives of believers produce a stronger and more robust faith. And faith, as Peter puts it when he talks about suffering, is more valuable than gold (1 Peter 1:7).

When we see our struggles from this perspective, we can also begin to understand why Paul calls them light and temporary (2 Corinthians 4:17) and “not worth comparing with the glory” that awaits us (Romans 8:18).

Lord, thank you that through your Spirit we may experience joy in the midst of struggles, as our challenges in life bring us into a deeper relationship with you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

About the author — George Koopmans

George Koopmans has served as an ecumenical chaplain at Medicine Hat College in Medicine Hat, Alberta, since November 2021. Prior to entering into chaplaincy, George served as a pastor to two congregations—one in Minnesota (Luverne), and the other in Medicine Hat. George and his wife, Emily, have four adult daughters and three grandchildren. Hiking, biking, and birdwatching are his favorite hobbies.

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