Outrageous Counting

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds (James 1:2, ESV).

I’d like to nominate James 1:2 as one of the most outrageous statements in the Bible: “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds.” Count it all . . . joy?! Those are the words James wrote, through the inspiration of God’s Spirit, but from our perspective, it doesn’t add up.

Perhaps that’s because we tend to confuse joy with happiness, and this verse does not say, “Be happy about your trials.” Happiness is a fleeting, circumstantial, in-the-moment, excited feeling, an emotional high.

Joy is very different. You can’t make yourself joyful. Joy comes only from God. Joy is a supernatural delight in the Person, purposes, and people of God.

Have you ever sensed God at work in you or seen His obvious hand in a situation and knew in your heart that God did that? Have you ever stared up into starry space and sensed your soul being eclipsed by the God who made it all? What you felt in that moment was joy in who God is.

Joy is also something we exchange as brothers and sisters in Christ, a oneness of heart. We all belong to the same Master, follow the same Book, are filled with the same Spirit. We can experience a moving, connected, wonderful resonance with people we don’t even know; that too is joy.

A supernatural delight in the purposes of God means you know there’s something bigger going on here, something so far beyond the temporal that’s unfolding according to God’s plan. And you can take joy in God’s purposes.

Only Christ-followers would ever consider trials joy. If life is only about here, now, and your happiness, then trials would make zero sense and be worthless. If all you are living for is the next fifteen minutes, then unfortunately those fifteen minutes of happiness are almost over, and you would have good reason to resent a fly in that ointment. But those of us who are committed to a higher purpose and see this short life in its eternal perspective can get our thinking to a place of joy—no matter what.

Let’s get very practical with this. If you want to quit the pity party and get back on the joy train, then try this method. On four notecards, write the following:

What happened to me? On the first card, write the details of your trial.

Why am I here on earth? On the second card, write the purpose of your life, according to God’s Word.

How can this trial advance that purpose? On the third card, write what you can do today to advance the purpose of displaying the superiority of a life lived in God.

What resources can I access this moment to help me? On the fourth card, inventory all that’s available to you as a follower of Christ: the strength and comfort of the Holy Spirit; the Word of God giving you wisdom to direct your path; supportive Christian relationships; the grace of God, which allows you to
begin again when you fail. Think through how you can draw down upon those resources as you plow
through this trial.

Then keep going over these cards so that God’s purpose in your life will not be lost. This is a practical
exercise to help you consider your trials joy.

Lord God, You specialize in the outrageous. In Your economy, even trials can equal joy, but I need You to
train me to accept that radical idea. Teach me what true joy is. Forgive me for chasing fleeting
happiness. Help me to have an eternal perspective about how short my life is and what it’s really all
about: Your kingdom, Your glory, Your will here on earth, as it is in heaven. Give me today my daily
bread—the resources I need to endure the trials You’ve ordained for me. Thank You that Christ is enough
for me, and it’s in His mighty name I pray, amen.

— James MacDonald

For more from James MacDonald and the “Walk in the Word” Bible teaching ministry, visit