“How can you sing joyful songs during this difficult time?” our relatives asked. It was the night before my brother’s funeral, and we were singing his favorite worship songs. My brother David had tragically and unexpectedly died a few days before. He was just eighteen years old when he drowned in the Danube River. Our family and the entire community were in shock. But there was a glimmer of hope in all of this. David was a believer in Jesus, and we knew that one day we would see him again.

Just as our relatives were perplexed, the believers James was writing to must have wondered, “How can we consider troubles an opportunity for joy?” It seems counterintuitive. Joy and troubles simply don’t go together. Or do they? The apostle Paul listed joy as being part of the fruit produced in believers by the Spirit (Galatians 5:22). What if the joy talked about in James 1 doesn’t refer to mere happiness but to a deep place of peace rooted in a relationship with the living God?

This kind of joy can coexist with troubles of any kind only if we look beyond our present circumstances to our sovereign and loving Father who “causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them” (Romans 8:28). That’s what Jesus did in one of the worst moments of His life on earth. “Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame” (Hebrews 12:2).

Yes, it hurts. Yes, there’s pain. Trials will come, regardless of whether we’re ready or not. James said “when” not “if” trouble comes. What choice will we make? May God give us the strength to choose to experience great joy in Him when sorrows come our way.

NLT 365-day reading plan passage for today: Acts 21:1-17