Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind 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. (NLT)
When troubles come we don’t usually burst into songs of praise and put happy smiles on our faces. Nor should we. Bad things happen to us and to others. Happiness at such times is nothing to do with faith but rather with a sort of neurotic denial of reality.
So if this passage is not telling us respond to bad things like that, what is it saying? To grasp that, we need to understand the difference between happiness and joy. Happiness is an emotional reaction to favourable circumstances. Joy is glad confidence in the goodness of God. Joy is possible in bad circumstances because God is good in all circumstances.
This sort of joy is actually a sensible response to trouble. It sees beyond the immediate setback to the bigger picture which involves strengthening our faith and becoming more mature. After all, it can be bad trouble that drives us deeper into the good arms of God. When all else seems to fail, we discover the faithfulness of God.
Bad things happen and we must not call them good. Rather we trust that a good God will work his good purposes through those bad events. We put up with some unhappiness and in doing so become vulnerable to attacks of joy.
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