27 April 2015
An Imperative above Happiness

Don’t worry – be happy.

This fun little song, well known in American cultural life, is reminiscent of some Wisdom from the Scriptures. James tells us:

“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. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” - James 1:2-4

At first glance, the song and the verses here are ridiculous. How are we to not worry but be happy? Even crazier, how are we to consider it every joy when we face trials? What does it even mean to do that? There are a few things for us to note here.

First, James does not tell us to ‘feel’ it all joy when we face trials of many kinds; we are to consider it all joy. Think it all joy. Here, we are happily freed from the task of attempting to force happy feelings out of pain. This is a welcome relief from the idealistic trappings of modern western happiness advice.

More importantly, we should note that the joy to be derived from trials is not, in fact, related to the trials at all. James does not give us one of the laws of positive thinking in order to fix whatever situation we are in. It isn’t that we should consider it joy when we face trials because God will bless us in the future with even more things, or through positive thinking we will dig ourselves out of our situation. Instead, we have something much better.

Trials lead to perseverance. Perseverance leads to maturity. Maturity is very good. It is for this reason that James wants us to think that our trials are a source of joy. If this is the case, we need to ask ourselves one question: how much do we value maturity in Christ? Is it important to us? Is it something we dream about and plan for?

One of the benefits of fasting is that it sharpens our focus. When we fast, let us have our focus sharpened on what James finds so imperative, and let’s again consider how we can pursue maturity in Christ.

John Cunningham
Ministry Fellow at Penn
 

A Devotional from the Forty Days Initiative
Learn more about the 40 Day Initiative > 
Resources on prayer and fasting > 

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By God's Grace, Christian Union develops Christian leaders to transform culture. We resource student organizations at nine of the most strategic university campuses in America, and work in key cities to build networks of Christian leaders.

240 Nassau Street Princeton, NJ 08542
t. 609 688-1700 f. 609 688-1795