My mentor, who has been pastoring for the entire length of my life (26 years), ALWAYS tells me to “count it all joy.” Though I consider her wise and experienced, this is the one piece of advice that she offers, but I simply struggled to take. I am not even going to try and lie and tell you that this phrase has cheered me up when I heard it. Sometimes, it put things in perspective for me, but most of the time, if I am honest, it confused me. I found myself questioning how to count something joy, and what this whole concept really meant to begin with. What scripture was she quoting, and in what context was she using it? Was she simply trying to cheer me up, or did her words have a deeper meaning? I had so many questions until I really looked at the scripture for myself and thought about what it really means when the Author of Life is asking us to “count it all joy”.
I would wonder to myself, how am I supposed to consider that every little thing that happens to me, good or bad, should be counted as “joy”? When someone broke into my home in December, I was supposed to be happy? When I picked up and moved to a new city thinking I had a job only to find out that the job went to someone else after I had moved, was I supposed to smile and be glad? Sound outrageous, right? As a matter of fact, one of the first definitions for joy in any dictionary reads: the emotion of great delight or happiness caused by something exceptionally good or satisfying. What’s confusing about the Bible verse I am referencing is that the speaker is telling the audience to be joyful, even when the situation isn’t good or satisfying.
Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
I have read, and re-read this text numerous times. Tonight, it spoke volumes to me. First of all, this scripture isn’t saying IF trials come; it’s basically letting you know that WHEN trials come, be joyful, for God is preparing you for bigger things! There is no mention of being joyful ONLY when the events of your life warrant joy; on the contrary, the writer is telling us to be joyful especially when joy is the last emotion you want to feel. In other words, be joyful even when it hurts. When you are tested, know that God will use this test to mature and strengthen you. It’s almost to say that if you’re not being tested and tried and stretched and pulled and weary and weak and about to give up, then you’re not doing something right! When my laptop and all my hard drives (which contained everything I have ever written for work and personal life) were stolen from me, one of the first thoughts that popped in my head was that God is telling me that I don’t need those things to move forward in my life. I can be successful without those things; I can still “count it all joy” because through this loss, God is building me up for bigger things!
Looking back on my reactions to 4 months of unemployment and the shear madness that was 2009, I didn’t spend all the time considering life joyful. My situation was dismal and scary, so I spent a lot of my time in prayer, but still felt scared and helpless. I listened to my mentor and her advice, but I didn’t really know how to be joyful even when I felt like my heart and mind couldn’t physically feel happiness even if it was injected into my body by a long sturdy needle. I am learning that true maturity and strength isn’t reacting to what I see or how I feel, but reacting to what I know to be the ultimate truth. That truth is this: God’s Word will never return void. God’s will will always be done. God wins. God loves me and promises to provide for me. God is God, and if I just let God be God, I will have more time to count my blessings and be joyful.
I am learning as I go, and in light of this, I CAN count it all joy….