It is not an uncommon mindset within the American church that the main goal in life is to be happy. James 1:2-3 says, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.” What a striking statement in a climate of violent hostility toward Christians. Notice the expectation of trials that James provides. There is transparency here. Trials in a Christian’s life are guaranteed. Jesus Himself foretold it: “In the world you will have tribulation” (John 16:33).
The prescription that Jesus gives is to take heart for He has overcome the world. The prescription that James gives is to count it all joy. And the reason he gives is that Christians know that the testing of their faith produces steadfastness. The subtext is that the Lord uses trials to sanctify believers. Taking heart in the Lord leads to considering trials all joy.
Many Christians say things like, “I think that God would want me to be happy.” There is a sense in which that’s true, but not in the way that we tend to think. For us, happiness means a life of no troubles or trials. Those who hold this view become exceedingly disappointed when they encounter trials. They begin to ask questions like, “How could God let this happen?”
The reality is that the Lord doesn’t promise to shield us from difficult and devastating things in this world. In fact, these things are guaranteed in our lives, inasmuch as we will not be tempted beyond what we can bear to abandon the faith (1 Corinthians 10:13). But we can rest assured that when we do encounter trials, it is for the glory of God and for our sanctification. Furthermore, He will be with us always (Matthew 28:20). Our happiness and joy come from the knowledge that He is sufficient.