Count it all joy, my brother, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.
In the past two days I learned that my oldest childhood friend lost all her material possessions in a devastating fire, and my cousin’s 24-year old son was killed in a tragic accident.
I cannot imagine their loss.
I read passages like the one above and I wonder at what exactly James meant when he said, “count it all joy.” Count the loss of all things – even those necessary to live – as joy? Count the unexpected life cut so desperately short as joy?
The Greek word for all in this passage is Πᾶσαν, which transliterates to pás in English. It means: all, every, the whole, of every kind. So, if the biblical scholars wanted to be literal about how they translated this verse it should read: Count it all joy, my brothers…
“But Teeli,” you say, “that is how they translated it.”
This is one of those times when I don’t immediately appreciate the conviction to live my life submitted to the Word of God. And I might as well tell you now that the Greek for joy (χαρά or chara) means just what it says in the English – joy, delight, gladness, a source of joy. But I also know that God does not want me to count all the heartache in my life, or for you to count the heartache in your life, as joy simply by its own merit. There is something deeper at work in this command to evaluate everything within the context of delight. The rest of the verse gives us the necessary information we need to understand the why – and by extension the how – of following through with counting our trials as joy.
…for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.
Back to our Greek. That word, steadfastness, is ὑπομονή or hupomoné (hoop-om-on-ay’) and literally means to remain under. In other English translations, the word chosen is endure. But it also has the connotation of patience. So, it isn’t merely to endure because we can do no other. It is to patiently remain in the situation out of our own desire to be dedicated.
We readily see the beauty of steadfast faith in others. It is the stuff of epic heroes. But it is also the stuff of ordinary people who willingly lean into the discomfort and heartbreak of their trials because they understand its greater purpose.
And that is something to cause joy. My pain, my friend’s pain, my cousin’s pain is not meaningless. It matters! It is building in me, and in them, something beautiful that cannot be shaken or stolen – an enduring faithfulness that will hold us until the end.
So, I count all my trials as joy because I am certain of their intended purpose. Why do I do this? Because my enduring faith is an object of beauty for my savior. How do I do this? By taking consideration of all the trials placed in my path and acknowledging that each one has an intended purpose for my life and patiently, humbly, remaining dedicated in every one.