I never actually asked God to make my life all joy, but I expected him to do so. I’m convinced a life full of joy is his will, but I confused life full of joy with life free of trouble.

I knew better. If you’d complained about your circumstances, I would’ve assured you God never promised his children a life free of trouble, only that he’d be with us and give us joy anyway.

Honestly, I believed that. Here’s another idea I wholeheartedly endorsed.

Christians should live above the circumstances, not under the circumstances.

Christians should live above the circumstances, not under the circumstances. Click To Tweet

One day I took a good look at myself and discovered I was—see if you can guess—under the circumstances…and feeling disheartened.

Where’s all the joy?

The Lord answered with questions. “Does life full of joy mean life free of trouble? Do you expect character building without challenge?”

I’d blamed circumstances for stealing my joy. When these changed, I could get on with my spiritual development—joyfully. But God had designed the circumstances with purpose—to advance my development and make me look more like Jesus.

That truth should have overwhelmed me with joy. I cried.

Lord, does this mean you aren’t going to change the circumstances? You expect me to learn to live above them? And the process will make me more like you? How’s that going to happen?

He said, “Count it all joy.” I needed to think about that.

James wrote, “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience” (James 1:2-3 KJV).

In the New International Version, this reads, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, when you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of our faith develops perseverance.”

The Amplified Version says, “Consider it wholly joyful, my brethren, whenever you are enveloped in or encounter trials of any sort or fall into various temptations. Be assured and understand that the trial and proving of your faith bring out endurance and steadfastness and patience.”

Joy begins with a decision to regard a circumstance as joyful.

Joy begins with a decision to regard a circumstance as joyful. Click To Tweet

When I do my part—present an attitude of joy through faith—God does his part, producing inner joy. And besides having joy, I’ll learn endurance, steadfastness, and patience.

Okay…I can do this. I will consider it wholly joyful when faced with difficult circumstances.

Checking that lesson off my to-do list, I felt prepared to go around smiling, considering “it” all joy because it was all joy. Choosing that response when it wasn’t all joy proved more difficult than expected.

I had no desire to consider anything joy. Then I read in Acts 5 that Peter and his apostle-buddies did an unusual thing. They rejoiced in suffering.

The religious leaders had them thrown in prison for teaching and healing in the name of Jesus. During the night an angel of the Lord opened the prison doors, brought them out, and instructed them to continue teaching in the temple.

Again the religious elite confronted them and accused them of filling Jerusalem with their doctrine. A member of the council, Gamaliel, advised his colleagues to give the apostles space. He said if their work came from human effort alone, it would come to nothing. “But if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it.”

After receiving a beating and a stern reminder not to teach in the name of Jesus, the apostles left rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer for Christ. Still determined to obey God rather than men, “daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ.”

I wonder…did those brave men consider their circumstances merely an opportunity to count it all joy?

Life brings us through hard places. God doesn’t guarantee a life free of trouble but a life full of joy. The issue is not the circumstance but our response to the circumstance.

Counting it all joy is a decision we make in advance, a choice independent of feelings.

Counting it all joy is a decision we make in advance, a choice independent of feelings. Click To Tweet

Choosing to rejoice changes my feelings, and sometimes that changes circumstances. Even if I’m in the same place, I can navigate my circumstances with a joyful spirit.

“Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice, ye righteous: and shout for joy, all ye that are upright in heart” (Psalm 32:11).

In hard places do you struggle to consider it all joy? I’d love to hear your comments. And please share this post with friends needing encouragement.

(Adapted from Cabbages and Kings–Reflections on Living Abundantly in Christ)

© Dianne Barker 2018

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