One more thought on ‘trouble’, an add-on to the previous post: can trouble and pure joy get together?

Jesus told his disciples, In this world you will have trouble, then added, But take heart! I have overcome the world (John 16:33). Trouble happens, but the Lord sets boundaries.1 His love denies it the right to overwhelm us. He restrains and edits it so that gain outweighs loss.2

James speaks about ‘trouble tests’- calamities, temptations, afflictions, storms, trouble in one form or another – “trials” that probe our faith (Jas 1:2-3)

God has a real-time picture of the shape of our faith; he doesn’t need to run quality checks on it. The trouble test is for our benefit. It unpeels our faith to show us (and anyone watching) the areas that need some attention. It can be a painfully honest monitor of whether or not faith is resting (trust). The “test” is not to harm us or record our failures. It’s for our gain.

Perseverance is basic to discipleship.3 We live to love Christ and shine for him, regardless of cost or inconvenience. During trouble, that stickability toughens, but that’s not all. The refusal to give up boosts the supernatural remake of our lives. It gives God’s grace a climate to finish its work (1:4) in us.

Enduring gain

We pray, yet the trouble arrives. We pray more, but it continues. We’ve all been there. The Lord has a loving reason for not removing it. Instead, he empowers us to patiently persevere. But there’s massive unseen activity happening in our trouble arena. The all-powerful Spirit of grace is at work, to grow what we have and add what we lack (that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything 1:4).

Trouble and pure joy get together

Ever-increasing glory

Forming us into Christ’s likeness is the Spirit’s work-of-pleasure, and many of his outstanding changes in us take place during trouble times. Grace frees every storm or period of trouble from loss and futility, and redeems it for our enduring gain.4

When storms hit, our thoughts naturally go to rescue and survival. But the Spirit of grace lifts our inclinations from the natural plane to the supernatural. He gives us a disposition for Christ-like response, which includes thinking ‘gain’ when the circumstance is shouting ‘loss’.

The change in us isn’t always apparent during the trouble. We become aware of it later, and it’s often recognized by others before we see it in ourselves. Even then, the full, amazing beauty of what the Spirit did during our trouble will only really be seen in the bright light of the Final Day.

Trouble and pure joy get together

The Lord highlights one area of gain in particular: wisdom. He wants to share his perspective on living, and how he sees our unfolding story. He wants to lavish wisdom, but not auto-dispense it. He wants us to want it enough to ask (1:5). And he adds an exclusion line: the asking mustn’t be a cocktail of belief mixed with doubt (1:6-8).

Wisdom adjusts our view of the trouble and teaches us what to do (or not do) in it. It’s a gateway gain; wisdom opens up understanding of our other gains in Christ and how they shape daily life. And it helps us recognize what else the Spirit is growing in us or adding to us through the trouble test.

So, can trouble and pure joy get together? James says, yes. He writes to believers in trouble: Consider it pure joy (1:2). He isn’t suggesting they should find their struggle fun, but calls for celebration because he knows trouble has been lovingly framed for lasting gain.

  • Faith at rest (trust) in a time of trouble honours what the Lord says about himself. Read Psalm 46:2-3 and rephrase it with words or images that describe your trouble (or that of the situation you are praying for): though….…. (describe the trouble scene as it is). Then lean into the Lord’s words in verse 10. Sing the refrain in verses 7 and 11, replacing “us” with “me”.
  • Consider it pure joy – we don’t celebrate the trouble, but have reason to be glad because the Lord’s love is at work in it for our gain. Focus on that as you respond to 1 Thes 5:18
  • Exalt Christ as the fullness of wisdom (Col 2:3), then follow through with Jas 1:5. ASK for his wisdom in order to interpret the trouble on two levels.
    1. What the Spirit is growing and adding during the trouble test. It could be helpful to have someone join you in praying through this. What steps can be taken to cooperate with the Spirit?
    2. The responses that will be the best witness of your faith-at-rest in Christ. What action? What to avoid? What type of praying? Note: There is a time for pleading and a time for releasing, 2 Cor 12:7-10.

1 1 Cor 10:13, Job 1 & 2   2 Rom 8:28   3 Lk 9:62   42 Cor 3:18