Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds.
God is telling you that when you experience setbacks, disappointments, heartbreaks, count it all joy. When you have car trouble, when the refrigerator breaks down, rejoice. When you have chronic back pain, when you lose your job, when you hear the diagnosis of cancer, give thanks. In all these times of pain and suffering, count it all joy. Be glad, give thanks, rejoice, bring praise to me. Don’t complain, whine, grumble, groan or grow bitter. Instead, count it all joy.
Let me ask you: Do you do this? Are you doing it right now with whatever challenge or setback you are facing?
This response to suffering is exceedingly rare. It sounds crazy. But this is God’s clear command, both in this passage and in other passages, such as Romans 5:3, Philippians 4:4 and 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18.
Why does God command us to count every trial as a joy? Simply because God is God and he will redeem every trial and bring good out of it for his people. James 1:3 goes on to say: “For you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.” Romans 8:28 gives us the sure promise: “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good.” God uses suffering to produce endurance, to build faith, to shape our souls, to grow our hearts.
In a DesiringGod.org blog post, John Piper once wrote: “This is not a little piece of advice about the power of positive thinking. This is an utterly radical, abnormal, supernatural way to respond to suffering. It is not in our power. It is not for the sake of our honor. It is the way spiritual aliens and exiles live on the earth for the glory of the great King.”
David McCullough has written a classic biography of John Adams, our second President, in which he records this experience: “John Adams said he has ‘an immense load of errors, weaknesses, follies and sins to mourn over and repent of.’ These were ‘the only affliction’ of his present life. But St. Paul taught him to rejoice ever more and be content. ‘This phrase “rejoice ever more” shall never be out of my heart, memory or mouth again as long as I live.’”
This is God’s will for us, that in every trial, we count it all joy. Because we know God is at work, redeeming the suffering for our sake. This phrase should never be out of our heart, memory or mouth again as long as we live.