These last couple of years have been some of the hardest for our country and our world. We have faced enormous changes and challenging circumstances in how we live, work, and raise our families, and even though it seems like there might be a light at the end of the tunnel, there is still the temptation to give in to fear and worry over what the future holds as we recover from the circumstances surrounding the coronavirus. So how should we as Christians be responding when the whole world seems to be entrenched in the fear of the unknown? The Word of God has an answer for us: choose joy.
Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. James 1:2-4
Now you may be thinking, “What does this mean? Is God asking me to be happy when bad things happen to me?” Well not exactly.
What James is Really Saying
James is not telling us to be happy or excited when bad things happen to us. He’s not telling us to lie to ourselves and others about how we really feel about a situation we’re in. He’s not even telling us that God wants us to suffer. There is a deeper spiritual truth here to uncover that reveals how we should respond to trials – and it begins in the mind.
When we experience a trial or challenge, how we interpret what we’re experiencing influences the end result. If we choose to only focus on the natural circumstances, it can seem discouraging, or even hopeless. But James knows that there is something deeper going on in the spiritual realm, and because we are born-again, we can have access to that.
The Example of the Promised Land
In Numbers 13-14, the children of Israel have escaped their enslavement in Egypt and are traveling in the wilderness with Moses. They have reached the edge of the land that God has promised to them and send twelve spies inside to see what kind of land it is and who lives there. The spies return and give their report in Numbers 13:27-32a:
They gave Moses this account: ‘We went into the land to which you sent us, and it does flow with milk and honey! Here is its fruit. But the people who live there are powerful, and the cities are fortified and very large. We even saw descendants of Anak there. The Amalekites live in the Negev; the Hittites, Jebusites and Amorites live in the hill country; and the Canaanites live near the sea and along the Jordan.’ Then Caleb silenced the people before Moses and said, ‘We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it.’ But the men who had gone up with him said, ‘We can’t attack those people; they are stronger than we are.’ And they spread among the Israelites a bad report about the land they had explored.
Ten of the spies chose to ignore God’s faithfulness and the many miracles He had performed already and give a negative report based on fear of their natural circumstances. Only two spies, Caleb and Joshua, spoke out of faith. They all saw the same walls, cities, and giants, but Caleb and Joshua chose to interpret those things based on God’s strength, not their own strength. Their understanding of God and His character changed how they viewed their circumstances.
What Will You Believe?
In the same way, there are two ways we can see our challenges — the giants — in our lives:
- The vehicle through which we are going to be overwhelmed.
- It will take our lives.
- It will steal from us.
- It will destroy our dreams.
- It will defeat us.
- It will cause us to fail.
- It will leave us worse than we were before.
- The vehicle through which God will bless us.
- It will help us mature.
- It will teach us wisdom.
- It will show us His will as we overcome.
- It will show us His goodness and Glory.
- It will work out for our benefit.
- It will grow our faith.
Make no mistake, both are definitely options for us. The determining factor is what we believe about God, ourselves, and our problems. The instant something bad happens in your life, the enemy will be right there whispering in your ear, trying to cast doubt in your heart about God’s goodness and love for you. You have to stand on your faith and combat his lies with scripture. Believe in Who God is and trust that not only will He get you to the other side, He will use it to bless you in the long term.
God in Our Circumstances
What we believe about God determines how we perceive our circumstances. If we don’t believe that God loves us and is always there for us no matter what, we will give in to despair and fear of being overcome by our trials. However, if we believe that God is Who He says He is in His Word, it will be a lot easier to choose to be joyful. Isaiah 41:10 says,
Do not fear, for I am with you;
Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you, surely I will help you,
Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.
This scripture clearly outlines who God is in our circumstances. He is proclaiming the goodness of His character and the surety of His faithfulness. Whenever the enemy tries to cast doubt into your relationship with God, this scripture is an amazing tool to disprove those lies instantly. Make a habit of confessing this scripture out loud whenever you need a faith boost.
God will never make us go through a hard season alone. He is always right there, ready to powerfully work on our behalf so we can overcome any trial or tribulation. When we realize that it is His strength, and not ours, that empowers us to have victory, we can take our hands off the wheel and just let Him work everything out according to His timeline. Walking in faith means setting all our burdens at God’s feet, surrendering our will and our desire to solve our problems on our own. 1 John 2:13 says,
I am writing to you, fathers, because you know Him who has been from the beginning. I am writing to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one. I have written to you, children, because you know the Father.
What Do You Believe About God?
Because of Jesus, God is not going to withhold anything we need from us. Just as there is unfettered relationship between us and Him, there is also unfettered provision. How can we think that there is anything good He wouldn’t give us, when He laid down His own Son for us?
Psalm 84:11 says,
If you have accepted Jesus as your Savior, you are counted among “those who walk uprightly.” That means this promise is for you! God is your protector, your provider, and He will withhold no good thing from you. When you are facing a need, let this verse be what you meditate on, not the fear that your need will go unmet.
Our Role in Our Circumstances
Even though God is the one who fights our battles, our role is not to sit passively on the sidelines and wait for our problems to be solved. Remember Caleb and Joshua from the passage we read earlier – they spoke out in faith when faced with an insurmountable challenge. In Romans 8:37, it says,
Now, these “things” that Paul is talking about in Romans are not the easy things, the simple things, or even the annoying things. He’s talking about the things that truly challenge us, that tower over us, that threaten to crush us beneath them. When we face those things, we need to look beyond the natural into the supernatural.
These challenges we face in our lives are necessary to build our faith. They refine us and draw out the patient, enduring attitude that truly trusts God no matter what. If we look a few verses earlier in Romans, we’ll find:
We can stand in confidence that God is going to work, not only in our circumstances, but also in us! He will be the one to grow us in His image and file away the parts of us that are not like Him. With that kind of attitude, we can look at something like a car accident or a job loss and say “You know what, God is going to turn this around for good. I don’t know how yet, but I know He loves me and is going to take care of me. In fact, He is going to grow me through this challenge and I am going to be more blessed on the other side than I was going into it.”
He is Our Shepherd
John 10:3-4 says,
From this scripture we can draw two conclusions: 1) We can hear Jesus’s voice, and 2) We follow after Him. This is a great piece of encouragement for Christians who maybe struggle with knowing whether they hear God or not. Here is it in Jesus’s own words: you hear His voice and no action or thought of yours can keep His voice from reaching you. Confess that over yourself! Say, “I hear His voice. I will not follow the voice of a stranger.” Build that confidence, not in yourself, but in His perfect work in you.
God wants to reveal more of Himself to us. He wants us to know Him. When we face challenges, we get a deeper knowledge of the character of God. We get to know Him as our healer, as our provider, as our comforter, as our wisdom. The more we know Him, the greater our faith in Him becomes! Think about it – the longer you know someone, like a significant other or close friend, and build a relationship with them, the more you trust them right? It works the exact same way with God.
That’s why we should “count it all joy” when we face trials. On the other side of every challenge, there is a greater knowledge of the character of God and more personal growth for us. Hallelujah!