In a day and a culture where taking it easy and getting it easy is the rule, it is challenging to see some of the Biblical instructions which speak of dealing with tough times. How good are you at being happy in tough times? How much joy do you think you could muster when you are under duress?
Well, the Bible tells you to be joyful under pressure, so let’s have a look at that and see if we can’t help you move in that direction.
Under Orders to by Happy!
Take a look at this verse from the Apostle James, who was both a half-brother to Jesus and also the leader of the Jerusalem church.
“My brothers, count it all joy when you fall into divers temptations” James 1:2
That could be paraphrased to say, “Men, have a positive attitude about the whole variety of pressures you are coming under”.
This is not a heavenly suggestion, but a fairly direct instruction. You are under orders to be happy! You are instructed to be joyful when you find yourself in various challenging situations.
The Natural Response
I can be fairly confident that it is not your natural response to be joyful when things go wrong and you are put under pressure. If you are like me you are probably keen to live your whole life without a care.
Our natural attitude to life’s problems can be to resist them and resent them. Some Christians try to blast them away with “faith”. Others complain to God about the frustrations they encounter. Some blame God for their problems.
The issue with this instruction is actually one of Maturity. James points us to a clear understanding of temptations and advises several mature responses. The bottom line is that temptations indicate areas of growth that we need to move through.
Temptations and Tough Times
What James said in the original Greek language in which he wrote, is that we will fall into a variety of tests. The Greek word for “temptations” is peirazo, which, among other things, means, “to try, make trial of, test: for the purpose of ascertaining his quantity, or what he thinks, or how he will behave himself”.
So these temptations are in fact “tough times” of difficult situations. They are circumstances in which you will be tempted to react and show the real quality of your inner self.
The word does not mean “lure to sin” as much as it means “put to the test”. So the various problems that you fall into are each tests to see how you will react and what will come out of you.
The Joy Response
Joy is not the natural response. Usually our response to a new problem is frustration, resentment, anger, discouragement or some similarly negative reaction. If we respond with joy it says that we have gained a level of maturity and that we have less junk inside us to come bursting out under pressure.
A Biblical Perspective on Challenges
Using this instruction from James as a starting point, let’s take a look at the Biblical perspective on the challenges we face.
We see that temptations and challenges are not out of the ordinary. They come in various shapes and sizes and they do come along.
Paul, writing to his disciple, Timothy, declared that everyone who is a Christian will face persecution.
“Yes, all who will live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.” 2 Timothy 3:12
Peter also spoke about how these challenges test our faith.
“Wherein you greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, you are in heaviness through manifold temptations: That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perishes, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ” 1 Peter 1:6,7
Trials Have a Purpose
I mentioned already that temptations and trials cause what is in us to be revealed. But they also have another purpose. Immediately after James instructs us to “count it all joy” he goes on to explain why we do so.
“Knowing this, that the trying of your faith works patience.” James 1:3
Trials have a purpose. They are to create deeper godly character in us. They cause patience to come up in us.
So, next time you face an unexpected challenge and you are tempted to respond with some ugly attitude, pull yourself together and realise that this is a good situation. You will grow in godly character through that trial. So now you can be joyful. It isn’t what your flesh wants to endure, but it is what you know will be good for you.