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Finding Joy in the Midst of Trials

In our daily grind, it's easy to lose sight of the bigger picture. Diapers need to be changed. Meals need to be prepped. Floors swept. Clothes must be washed (and hung to dry, folded, and ironed). Dishes need to be cleaned. (In Italy, not everyone has a dishwasher and most don't have a clothes dryer either). Hearts require consolation. Life is busy and many are the tasks that call for our attention. Sometimes we feel as though we are soaring through the sky like eagles with the wind pushing us faster and further. At other times, we feel as though we can barely get off the ground. As frontline missionaries in Italy, we have the added challenge of having an overwhelming amount of work to do with limited resources at our disposal. This week, a precious verse from the book of James profoundly touched our family. As we navigate life's complexities, in particular when seeking to be active in bringing the Gospel to dark places, it's essential to remember these words from James chapter 1, verses 2 to 4.

Joy in Trials

The Verse That Grounds Us

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. – James 1:2-4

These words from James' letter are rich with wisdom and practical for everyday Christian living. They challenge us to find joy amidst life's trials, a concept both profound and transformative.

Embracing Trials with Joy

James' message in chapter 1 is revolutionary: "Count it all joy." When we face trials, our natural reaction, if we're honest, is often anything but joy! Usually, it is despair and fretting. It comes naturally to most of us to avoid trials and complications at all costs. Who doesn't love smooth sailing after all? Few things are as nice as the wind gently blowing through your hair as the sun shines and you move forward with little effort! But James flips this on its head, reminding us that trials, in God's economy, serve to test our faith, building steadfastness and spiritual maturity.

In a world fraught with chaos – from pandemics to political instability and even wars – it's easy to feel overwhelmed. Yet, amid all this turmoil, our Lord reigns sovereignly, advancing His kingdom and calling people to Himself. The Lord is using what seems like chaos to us to further the Gospel, mature the body of Christ, and see new local churches solidified in various places around the globe. There is currently unprecedented openness to the Gospel, making it a ripe season for evangelism and discipleship.

Real-Life Encounters and Evangelism

At a recent birthday gathering, I found myself unexpectedly engaging in multiple conversations about faith. When we put ourselves prayerfully among the people, by God's providential working, we can dialogue and testify about the peace and hope we have in Christ amid these uncertain times. Many souls are searching for hope and questioning everything they thought they knew to be sure. In times like this, we can expose to others the results of secular thinking which is arguably one of the greatest enemies to rise against Christ. With love and firm conviction, we can show where secularist thought leads, mainly confusion, chaos, suffering, and even death. We can then show the transformative power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the Kingdom of God that alone brings real comfort to the weary soul and true purpose and joy in everyday life.

During this moment of conversing with folks that God brought to me at a kid's birthday party, one individual opened up and shared with me some of their story of faith, as well as doubts regarding the Roman Catholic faith system. This person even expressed interest in joining our Sunday afternoon gatherings, showcasing the simplicity and beauty of communal faith practices. Our home is very tight, but we are opening it to welcome others around God's word on Sunday afternoons. We pray to find a home that is more spacious for hosting others.

Our current approach for our Lord's Day afternoon gathering is simple but full of all the essentials of a Christian community. We start by reading a Psalm and then praying. Then we sing a few hymns, allowing also the kids to choose. We read together a historic confession of the faith and/or do some catechism questions and answers with the kids (also good for parents). We pray again and open the Bible to read a passage of Scripture. Currently, we are going through the Book of Acts. We let the kids also read out loud and we create some discussion about the passage. We talk about its context, how it relates to the rest of Scripture and the Good News, and how we, as followers of Christ ought to respond. We close our Scripture reading with a prayer and then sing a final song. With full hearts we then let the kids play together outside while we organize for a meal. All guests are welcome to hang out longer to eat with us if they desire or to leave if they have other commitments. We have found that this simplicity fosters a healthy environment where our family can grow together in faith and encounter the Lord Jesus Christ on the mission field where healthy and sound churches are few, far, and scattered. We pray to see other families in our local community continue to join us and benefit from this as well. This is at its core, the way new churches take form; individuals and families committed no matter the cost to following Christ, knowing Him, and making Him known.

Becoming Salt and Light

Let's return to our discussion on joy and trials. When we live out the call to "count it all joy," we become beacons of hope in a world marred by hopelessness, despair, pain, sorrow, suffering, and confusion. Our steadfastness amidst trials not only strengthens our faith but also shines brightly, pointing others to the Savior. When we fail to see our trials in the light of God's sovereign work of testing us and making us more steadfast, we lose our saltiness.

You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people's feet. 14 You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. - Matthew 5: 13-16

James 1 is a profound reminder that our faith needs testing to grow strong. Without trials, we remain spiritually stagnant, easily swayed by life's challenges, tossed about by the trials of life, and our saltiness loses its potency. By embracing trials with joy, we become firmly rooted, resilient, and impactful as witnesses of Christ’s unwavering love and sovereign goodness.

Closing Thoughts

Reflecting on our text, we see the essence of Christian joy. Jesus, in His ultimate act of love, joyfully faced the cross, redeeming us and calling us to follow Him. In our trials, we too can find joy, knowing that they refine our faith and draw us closer to Him, knowing that we are forever united to Christ and nothing can separate us from Him.

Let us, as good soldiers of the Lord, take James' words to heart. Let us commit our hearts to remind one another to "count it all joy" when faced with trials, knowing that these moments are opportunities for growth and deeper faith. By doing so, we become a testimony of God's grace, shining brightly in a world desperately in need of hope and salvation.

May we, by God's grace, learn to embrace this truth, living out our faith with joy and resilience, no matter what trials come our way.


Written by Jesse Schreck | founder, director, and missionary church planter in Italy with Practical Missions Cohort


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