Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. James 1:2-4
Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. 1 Peter 4:12-13
What does it mean to have joy during suffering? Do I have to be happy that my car broke down? What about if I get mugged? What if someone I love dies? Is the Bible commanding us to “don’t worry, be happy”?
Yes and No.
In the sense that “don’t worry, be happy” is telling us “It’s not a big deal” absolutely not. The trials and tribulations that we face are a big deal. They are difficult, stressful, and “fiery.” We are not to be escapists, denying the reality that this world hurts.
There is also a deeper reality that we must turn to. Jesus wasn’t joyful in the Garden of Gethsemane, yet the Scripture says He went to the cross “for the joy set before Him” (Heb. 12:2). Why wasn’t He joyful during the suffering? He knew that on the Cross He would face a separation He had never known. He even cried out, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Mark 15:34). Jesus’ joy was set before Him: that He would forever reign at the Right hand of the Father.
We have a similar joy before us: an everlasting life in Heaven. This is the end-game for us, and it is beautiful. But sometimes we walk by sight and not by faith and we don’t see Heaven. What do we do in the here and now?
In one sense, we have something that Jesus didn’t: no worries of separation from the Father. When Jesus sweat drops of blood, He was struggling with the upcoming separation from the Father. Because He suffered for us, this is a fear we never need to face. Before we believed, we were separated. But now:
…in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:37-39
And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age. Matthew 28:20
So, whatever you are facing today, know that Jesus has faced the worst of it for you. He is with you. That fact is our joy.