Stress is Paradoxical

 

CODE FOR CHRISTIAN LIVINNG

My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. JAMES 1:2–4

James insisted we should “count it all joy” when we face stressful trials of many different kinds. Count it what? Joy! And how much joy? All joy! Could this be a misprint? Most of us consider various kinds of trials a taste of hell itself, certainly not joy. We tend to count it all joy when we avoid trials, not when we fall into them. We hear of someone else’s trial and breathe a prayer of joyful thanks that the same fate has not fallen to us. What a paradox then! We’re to counter stress with joy? James’s admonition seems diametrically opposed to the way we tend to look at life’s challenges and difficulties. On the surface, this advice appears strange. Most of us would say, “Count it all joy when you escape trials of various kinds.”

We should let go of the misconception that we can avoid stress. We can’t. It’s a part of life. For those of us who believe in the supernatural power of Christ, our times of stress should be times of making sure we are in the will of God. Stress is rather neutral. The way we react to it is the issue. In the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5–7), Jesus preached about the importance of our reactions. Jesus said, for instance, when someone slaps us on the cheek, we are to “turn the other to him also” (Matthew 5:39). Or if someone wants to sue us for a piece of our clothing, we should give him our coat as well (v. 40). These are hard sayings, but dealing with stress is hard as well as counterintuitive and paradoxical. But we can, James insisted, deal with stress by learning to “count it all joy.”

When James wrote these words, he placed the phrase “count it all joy” in a tense that indicates exactly when we are to do that counting: when the trial is in the rearview mirror, we can begin to count it joy. James wasn’t saying the trial itself should be considered a joy. The word consider (some-times translated count) literally means “to think ahead, to think forward.” This is exactly what Job was doing when he said, “When [God] has tested me, I shall come forth as gold” (Job 23:10). Job did not at all consider losing his family, his wealth, and his health a joy, but he did look forward to the joy he knew would follow his trial.

James was addressing “my brethren” in verse 2, and this is significant. Brethren indicates those people who share values and beliefs. James was writing to his brothers and sisters in the faith. It is folly to tell a man without a spiritual life to count it joy when the trials come. James’s approach to stress is a family secret. As we discovered in The Joshua Code, we who are God’s children have a family secret: “We know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28). The lost world doesn’t know this truth.

Stress has a paradoxical nature to it. James went on to say, “Knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing” (James 1:3–4).

Content drawn from The James Code: 52 Scripture Principles for Putting Your Faith into Action.

 

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