Abundant Joy in the Midst of Stressful Times
January 12, 2021
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In the midst of stress, worry, trials, fear, and uncertainty, how can we obtain the abundant joy that God promises throughout the Bible to those who love Him? Truly possessing joy and peace seems almost impossible in these tumultuous times, doesn’t it? But in reality, facing troubles in this life is nothing new. The Book of James in the New Testament tells us that troubles are inevitable: “Consider it pure joy my brothers whenever you face trials of many kinds.” It doesn’t say “if” you face trials—it says “whenever” you face trials of many kinds.
It is true that some trials are big, and some are small. Some are fender benders and some are head-on collisions. Some people lose their wallets, and some people lose their business. Some people lose their keys; some people lose their loved ones. Some people suffer a heartache; some people suffer a heart attack. Some people wait in a long line at the DMV; some people wait in a long line for an organ transplant. Trials come in all different shapes and sizes.
Unavoidable loss, lack of provision, stress, oppression, and opposition are all unfortunate and inevitable parts of life—especially for the Christian. Any time a person chooses to follow Jesus Christ and takes a stand for God’s Word, he or she is actually going to have more problems because the world will take a stand against that person.
Perhaps you feel like David in Psalm 69:1-2 when he wrote, “Save me, O God, for the floodwaters are up to my neck. I sink in the miry depths where there is no foothold. I am in deep water and the floods overwhelm me.” If that is the situation you find yourself in today, I have good news for you—and it comes from God’s Word through three important principles:
1. Joyfully allow the process to run its course.
God has a plan for your life, though life is full of challenges. As you go through stressful times, remember that there is a process that must take place. In fact, James says to joyfully allow the process to take place. He writes in James 1:2, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.” Pure joy is not an outward expression of elation. Pure joy is an inward contentment knowing that God is at work. He is developing something in you: perseverance. So, if He allows the trial because He wants us to develop perseverance, the question is, “Why does God want me to develop perseverance? Why does He want me to learn to persevere?” Well, verse four tells you: “Perseverance must finish its work so that you will be mature, not lacking anything.”
Would you like to be in a position where you lack nothing? Well, the only way you get in the position where you lack nothing is if you become mature and complete. The only way you can become mature and complete is if you learn to persevere. The only way you’re going to learn perseverance is to go through a trial of some kind. Therefore, it sounds as though experiencing trials in life is a must. As it has been said before, don’t allow troubles to make you bitter; allow them to make you better. And you do this with the proper perspective and attitude that James talks about: joy.
2. Prayerfully ask God for wisdom and stability.
James 1:5 says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” This means that whenever you’re going through a difficult time, pray and ask God for wisdom to know what to do. Through prayer, you have access to the Creator God of the universe who is all-knowing, all-powerful, ever present, good, awesome, and loving. Why not ask Him for wisdom in the situation you are currently facing? Sometimes our prayers can be selfish, but James says here that if you ask for wisdom, God will give it to you generously and without finding fault. There’s one catch to asking God for wisdom, according to verse six. James says, “But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt.”
When you come to a fork in the road, and you’re thinking, Oh what should I do? God wants you to make the right decision. And not only does God want you to make the right decision, but He also wants to help you make the right decision. Just like a good parent, God has a wealth of wisdom He wants to share with you. He looks at all of us running around stressed and confused, and He wants us to come to Him for wisdom, joy, and peace—believing that He will do it. God will give you and me these spiritual gifts generously, if only we’d take the time to ask (pray).
3. Faithfully persevere while focusing on the ultimate prize.
If all you do is look at the problems, you’re not going to make it. The only way you’re going to get through difficult times is by focusing on the ultimate prize. James 1:9 addresses those who are in “humble circumstances.” Are you hurting right now? You’re in a humble circumstance. Are you stressed out right now? You’re in a humble circumstance. Are you in the midst of a trial? Have you recently lost a loved one? Have you lost your job? Have your children gone astray? Have you lost it all? James says you actually ought to take pride in such a high position. Why? Because God is about to show up. The same God who delivered Moses and the Israelites, Gideon, Daniel, Lazarus, and countless others is about to deliver you!
[Photo by Matt Moloney from StockSnap]
James 1:12 says, “Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.” And 1 Peter 1:7 says we ought to rejoice in these trials because, through them, our faith will be proven genuine—and of greater worth than gold! May you persevere by staying focused on the prize and know that God is preparing, maturing you, and blessing beyond what you could ever hope or imagine!
Pastor Dudley Rutherford is the author of Compelled: The Irresistible Call to Share Your Faith (available everywhere books are sold online) and the senior pastor of Shepherd Church, which has three campuses in the Greater Los Angeles area. You can watch services online or connect with Dudley at www.LiftUpJesus.com and on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.