God’s word to me came on January 11, 2013: “When troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing” (James 1:2-4).
Less than 12 hours later, I partially ruptured my left Achilles tendon and landed in a knee-high cast. “Three months with no weight bearing,” the ER doctor said as he wrapped my leg in plaster.
That’s a tough order regardless, but living in a three-storey townhouse with upstairs bedrooms complicated matters. God’s word came to mind that night as I hoisted myself backwards, on my bottom, up 15 steps: When troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy.
Pain wracked my body, but purpose filled my heart. The next 90 days could get ugly if I don’t respond well to this, I thought. I’ll be miserable, and so will everyone else in my household. If Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.
I wanted to avoid negative fallout at all cost. More so, I desired the promised outcome for obedience. My endurance would grow, and my faith would mature to where I’d be ready for anything!
OK, God. By the power of Your Holy Spirit, I choose to view my situation as You say. Hold my hand. Rule my heart. And control my mind.
The test intensified nine days later when my opposite knee suddenly developed issues requiring surgery. I became confined to a wheelchair. Then insomnia struck. And finally, shingles.
Physical pain was one matter. Emotional and mental pain was another. My husband and I cancelled a missions trip to Moscow. Attending our ministry’s annual staff conference in Romania also fell by the wayside. Play dates with my grandkids proved too exhausting. Leaving my house was impossible unless someone transported me. And exhaustion prevented me from hosting well-meaning visitors.
True to James 1:2-4, my troubles tested my faith. They brought hardship and hidden tears, but, also true to Scripture, they became opportunities for great joy. Here are several insights I gleaned through my experience.
Troubles bring joy if we adopt God’s perspective on them. The enemy will feed us lies such as, “This situation’s too difficult to endure,” and “I can’t cope.” Believing these lies causes discouragement and defeat, but God’s perspective does the opposite. He says we can do all things through Christ who gives us strength (Philippians 4:13). He also says, “Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). Focusing on the truth—the all-powerful God is on our side—dispels fear and transforms our attitude.
Troubles bring joy when we learn humility through them. My weakness forced me to admit I needed help—something this self-sufficient soul had resisted. I grew to be OK with friends and family cleaning my house, doing my laundry, supplying meals, and more. Their practical expressions of love brought me joy, and these folks, in turn, experienced joy when I accepted their service.
Troubles bring joy when we develop gratitude as a result of them. My circumstances taught me to be thankful for abilities I’d taken for granted—going grocery shopping and cooking, sitting cross-legged on the floor to play with my grandbabies, sleeping, and driving my car, for starters. I rediscovered the simple pleasure that life’s little things bring, and an attitude of gratitude now permeates every moment of my day. For what can you be thankful in the midst of, or as a result of, your troubles?
Troubles bring joy when we experience God in new ways. My injuries happened a few weeks prior to three book deadlines and a fourth major writing assignment. Fulfilling these deadlines became humanly impossible. I cried for God’s help, and His answer left me in awe. In essence, my trials provided the backdrop for me to experience a modern-day miracle, and I wouldn’t trade that for anything. What new understanding about God’s character can your present troubles reveal to you?
God’s word tells us that troubles are a part of life. It also says to embrace trials as opportunities for joy. No…great joy. Easier said than done, but possible as we rely on God’s strength to do what He says. The result? Spiritual growth and mature faith. Who wouldn’t want that?