One of the study questions in Chapter One focuses on James 1:2-4…
Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles 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. (James 1:2-4 NLT)
My natural question is – How can I be happy when trouble comes my way? Whether through my own actions or those of another, how can I be joyful through unemployment, illness, loss of a loved one, divorce, and so many other issues we deal with today?
I have spent quite a bit of time thinking about joy and happiness over the past couple of years, and I think it comes down to this... Joy and happiness are not the same.
Joy comes from knowing the Lord and having a personal relationship with Him. Joy is not dependent on our circumstances or the people in our life. It is the deep feeling of contentment in knowing Christ walks beside us every day – through trials, disappointments, and sorrows.
Happiness is dependent on others and life around us. Happiness can be temporary. When things are going well, I feel happy. When life throws me a curve ball, my happiness turns to disappointment, frustration, anger, and sadness.
Life changing situations that cause me unhappiness are the very times my faith and relationship with God can grow deeper and stronger through my dependence on Him.
I can be happy and joyful at the same time, but when something or someone makes me unhappy in my everyday life, my joy still comes from knowing God won’t ever leave me. His love and desire for a relationship with me is forever, no matter what. He stays and gets me through the unhappiness. He can use any situation, happy or otherwise, to prepare me for what He has planned for my future. The knowledge that God wants to refine me and prepare me for the future brings me joy and hope.
Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice! (Paul in Philippians 4:4)