Hello everyone, welcome to blog post #2 for this week. I come across this passage from time to time and I’m often stuck at the paradox it brings, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds,” James 1:2. The following is my attempt to make some sense of this paradox.

Trials aren’t inherently joyous occasions. They are seemingly, the complete opposite. Some describe their trials as not only a difficult circumstance in life, but sometimes, they are accompanied by the feeling of God’s absence. Pure joy?What I like about this passage is that it points out something that we often overlook in our modern culture. Today, we equate comfort in abundance with joy. What James does in this passage is a reminder that joy is simply a frame of mind, completely disconnected with the status of our physical nature and dare I say, even the status of our perceived spiritual nature. James thought it a joyous occasion because it would help us refine our dependence to God and one another as well as refining our outlook on our external circumstances.

After WWII a young man recounted his experience living many years in multiple concentration camps. He noted that those who survived, could not always say that they were the best fed or best clothed. He determined that their survival came from within, against all odds of their frail physical nature. They survived because they maintained hope. When recalling his experience he said this, “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” - Viktor Frankl.

We often sabotage our own joy, by thinking it needs to “feel” one way or another. Or by thinking we would be more happy if our situation was “better.” And surely there is some truth to that. But their is also truth in the fact that joy can be found in any situation. Joy isn’t always what we expect it to be. Maintain hope, maintain joy.

By: Nicholas Smith, MA, LPC