When was the last time you rejoiced in something other than personal pleasure or your achievements? When you looked past your trials in search of a greater glory? The Bible tells us Jesus endured the brutality of the cross for the “joy set before Him” (Hebrews 12:2). I believe God longs for us to approach our struggles and trials with the same long-term focus as we die to ourselves and surrender our lives to God’s bigger plan.
Learning to “die to self” can be tough in our “me-first” culture. In many ways, we’ve become conditioned to seek our comfort, self-preservation, and happiness above all else. But does this temporal focus hinder true joy? A joy that rests not in our ever-changing circumstances but instead in the unchanging nature of Jesus Christ?
I believe biblical joy is less of an emotional response and more of a deep-rooted trust in God, His promises, and His character. It is the assurance God is in control, even when our circumstances say otherwise.
When we’re going through a tough or confusing time, we may be tempted to think God has abandoned us or that perhaps He doesn’t care. But the Bible says differently.
In Scripture we’re told God thinks of us so often, His thoughts toward us outnumber the sands on the seashore (Psalm 139:17-18). We learn God rejoices over us with singing (Zeph.3:17). We read He has a plan for us, and He’s lovingly molding us into beautiful masterpieces to be used by Him (Eph. 2:10 & Phil. 1:6).
Psalm 34:18 tells us God is close to the broken-hearted. Our darkest moments can be an opportunity for us to experience the depth of God’s love and grace. When we are hurting, God wants us to draw close to Him and to let Him be our strength.
Remembering God’s love and faithfulness doesn’t take the pain or struggle away, but it does enable us to find joy—in Him and what He wants to do through us.
In James 1:2-4, we are reminded God is still in control—still lovingly watching over us, molding us—during our darkest nights.
2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
Maturity. Completion. Not lacking anything.
As a child, I did gymnastics. Like many of my teammates, I dreamed of one day competing in the Olympics. This dream colored every turnout, every blister, every muscle strain. I knew, to succeed, I’d need to embrace a certain amount of discomfort. And in fact, exceptionally difficult and uncomfortable workouts brought excitement, not because I loved pain, but because I anticipated the results. When meet time came, I wanted to stand before the judges mature in my performance, complete in my skill and strength, lacking nothing.
It was my long-term focus that enabled me to experience joy in the struggle. Notice, I did not rejoice in the struggle itself—that hurt! Instead, I rejoiced in my anticipation of the end result.
As Christians, our end result is heaven. It is that glorious moment when we stand before the throne of God and hear those words, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” More than that, it is the moment when we look around and see the countless souls we impacted while on earth.
You see, we never struggle in a vacuum. Others are always watching, and each trial is an opportunity to make God famous. To show the world what it means to live an authentic faith. That doesn’t mean we must repress or hide our feelings, because remember, biblical joy is not based on our emotions. Biblical joy says, “I’m loved even when I’m angry or hurt. I’m accepted even when I’m weak. I’m surrounded even when I feel all alone.” Biblical joy—that deep assurance that God is faithful, loving, and sovereign—continually points us to heaven. Biblical joy brings purpose out of our darkest times.
The next time you are facing a trial, ask God to help you to focus on the eternal. We don’t talk about heaven much, but according to the Bible, God will reward us for our choices here on earth.
I Peter chapter one verse seven says: These have come so that your faith–of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire–may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory, and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.
To whom is it proved genuine? Not God, because He already knows our hearts and the depths of our faith. It is proved genuine, I believe, to the watching world.
It is easy to praise Jesus when things are going well. It is excruciatingly difficult to do so when our world falls apart, but oh, what a powerful statement it makes when we do! A statement, I believe, that can provide a powerful witness to our unbelieving friends and family. And one day, when Christ is revealed and we stand before Him, I believe we’ll be able to see all the lives we impacted, through each trial, for eternity.
That, my friend, is a reason to rejoice.