Read: James 1:2-5, 16-18

Count it all joy . . . when you meet trials of various kinds. (v. 2)

During my early years as a pastor, I led a retirees’ Bible study of the book of James. When we reached James 1:2, one of the participants interrupted. He said, indignantly, “It sounds like James is saying we should ask for bad things to happen!”

That is not what James teaches. What James does teach is that the joy of the Christian life is paradoxical. The world around us confuses joy with happiness—an emotional response to external circumstances. The joy that James is talking about is not a fleeting feeling but a heart condition— a condition that does not change no matter one’s situation.

James urges us to find joy in our trials because trials strip away our artificial and unreliable sources of happiness. We live in a world that tells us we can only be happy when certain conditions are met: physical health, financial wealth, or material comfort. The problem is that the world’s criteria for happiness are subject to the world’s brokenness. Every earthly thing that makes us happy can (and will eventually) be lost.

Our God provides reasons for joy no matter our circumstances. He guarantees his perfect love and eternal life through Jesus Christ. But God does more than give us reasons for joy. God gives us a supernatural wellspring of joy: his Holy Spirit. If you are tired of chasing a kind of happiness that you cannot keep, ask God for the perfect joy you cannot lose. —Ben Van Arragon

As you pray, ask God to replace your fleeting happiness with his eternal joy.

About the Author

Ben Van Arragon has served various Christian Reformed congregations since 2003. He currently serves as pastor at Plymouth Heights Christian Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan.