“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds.” (James 1:2 NIV)
I fell asleep to the gentle sound of raindrops tapping out a tune on the tent roof. I woke up at two o’clock in the morning with an inch of water pooling on the floor. The tent had leaked. Thankfully we had another tent with us, and since we were all sleeping on cots or air mattresses our family was dry—mostly. We set up the extra tent in the dark, dragged our cots and dry bedding over, and went back to sleep.
It wasn’t the worst camping misadventure we’ve had. We spent one trip huddled in our tent because the sunny forecast morphed into a weekend of rain. On another trip a tent pole snapped, and we used a knitting needle to hold it together in an emergency repair. When things go wrong camping—and they will—you have a choice. You can let it spoil your fun and spend the rest of the weekend grumbling about the leaky tent, or you can laugh it off as a family memory and carry on.
Camping has helped me hone a useful ministry skill: choosing joy. Ministry families deal with the same financial pressures, physical challenges, and parenting crises other families do. Yet as ministry wives—and particularly small town or small church ministry wives—we have a unique share of stresses. Loneliness and isolation. Church conflict. Struggling to meet the spiritual needs of our children in a small church context. Feeling overworked and inadequate at the same time. Flat-out spiritual warfare. When these trials come, we have a choice. We can let the trials and tribulations of life derail us, or we can continue to choose joy.
James wrote his letter to a group of Jewish believers who had fled Israel because of persecution. Despite their suffering, James told them to consider their trials a reason to rejoice. In the hands of God, their trials became tools God used to refine them spiritually, producing perseverance, wisdom, and Christian maturity. God does the same for us. We are not alone in our trials and hardships. God is with us, and he uses those painful experiences to transform us for his glory. When suffering comes, we can find joy by asking God to show us where he is at work in and through us. God’s work in our lives is always cause for joy.
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