“How have things been going lately?” Have you ever asked one of your friends this question? Perhaps you have been asked this question by someone who genuinely cared. Probably the most common response is a simple, “Good,” which is typically just code for “I really don’t feel like having a conversation about the events of my day and the feelings I have toward them.” At times perhaps it is because things are not going well that people hide behind the “I’m good” cloak, so that they don’t have to admit that things are a bit tough.
When we come to the Epistle of James, we find that the response of “I’m good,” may be a bit off, but not in the way that we would naturally think. James explains that at times things can be a bit tough, and you will have a rough go of things, he uses the word “peirasmos” which means “testing, or temptation, or trial.” These trials will come in life. But the response that James advises believers to have towards these trials or hard times is that of joy. When things don’t go our way, or when times get tough, or when we find ourselves facing disappointment and frustration, we should instead turn to rejoicing.
But why should we be rejoicing during the trials of life? Why should we turn to joy and not sorrow in the face of hard times? There is only one reason: God. In Ephesians 1:11, Paul tells us that it is God that is working “all things after the counsel of his own will.” There is not one atom in all of the universe that is rogue to the design and the desire of an Omnibenevolent (all-good), Omnisapient (all-wise) God. Instead of seeing troubles as inhibiting to our lives, we should see them as enhancing our spiritual lives. With confidence we can be assured that God works all things together “for good to them that love God.” (Romans 8:28) This includes hard times. This includes the malicious designs of others. This is wholly comprised of every moment of every second of your life if you are a believer. God is constantly working through all things, seasons of spring and seasons of winter, to grow and mature you.
We see this attitude of rejoicing portrayed clearly in Joseph when after being sold as a slave by his brothers and betrayed by his own people, he instead turned in love and forgiveness to recognize in joy, “you thought evil against me, but God meant it unto good.” The word “meant” in this verse is “(ch)ashab” and it is literally the imagery of weaving together a beautiful tapestry. What Joseph was rejoicing about his trials for was that while they were tough, and being imprisoned and lied about by evil people was difficult, all the while God was weaving together something incredibly beautiful – the salvation of His people.
With that same thinking, James says, “count it all joy when you fall into trials.” God is seeking to work in you something great for your good. It may be tough, and it may not be naturally enjoyable, but allow the hope and realization that something far greater, far more important is happening in your life to encourage you. God is working to transform you. And then, when someone says, “How have things been going lately?”, instead of skirting the issue and giving the notorious, “Good.”, try out this one, “Things have been a bit tough, but I am excited to see how God is going to use it to transform me into the person He wants me to be.”
Food For Thought: How have things been going lately?