Take cheer, troubled one—the Lord’s work is not done. The same Lord that used the cross for the redemption of the world is at work in your trials for His greater purposes. In this, we can have joy.
Like the inhospitable cold corridors of the emergency hallways we entered, so were the years of trials and tribulations my family endured. Life-altering pain, weekly doctor’s visits, IVs, and deeply weary souls underneath it all consumed the last five years of our life. Like a thief who comes to steal, it has physically, emotionally, and spiritually robbed us, leaving us depleted, weary, and wondering if we would survive. Joy has been rarely perceptible through our enduring loss. However, the seeds of a greater work, and yes, even of a greater delight have begun to sprout and flourish as we peer under the surface of what God is doing. A work that God is doing not only in us but in all who endure trials.
Joy does not arise naturally from us as we suffer the effects of the fall of this life. Why would James exhort the readers of his epistle to “count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds” (James 1:2)? His words seem to be jarring initially, especially at the beginning of a letter to exiles who have been dispersed from their homes. We would expect words that seem more sympathetic, perhaps, intermingled with pity and compassion. The brother of our Lord, however, gets straight to the point and exhorts the opposite expression of natural emotion—joy amid trial. These seemingly cold words of James are actually filled with warm gospel truth and hope as they point the troubled soul to the root from which the true healing balm comes.
Our hearts often pleaded for God to remove our burden as it felt all-consuming and far too weighty to bear, and yet in those moments we found deeper appreciation for the sufferings of our Lord. Jesus’ need to withdraw to a solitary place in the garden of Gethsemane and plead in sorrowful anguish to have this cup removed, yet He surrendered to the will of the Father. As He hung on the cross, with His earthly life excruciatingly draining away, He recognized and even delighted in a work greater than the pain. The salvation of the world was taking place through the anguish of His soul (Isa. 53:11); redemption through His suffering and His shedding of blood (Heb. 9:22). If God used the worst suffering for the greatest good, then surely He can and does use our suffering for good as a part of His greater redemptive work.
The gospel story demonstrates that all suffering comes from the hands of a loving Father who has redeemed His own and cares enough never to waste a trial without its having its perfect work. As we waded deep tumultuous waters, these trials began exposing our fears, frailties, and lack of childlike trust, yet all the while they simultaneously strengthened our feeble frame and developed aspects of our faith that would not have been exhibited otherwise.