2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything (NIV)
Trial and temptation are one and the same. They are conjoined twins. You never have one without the other. Human nature corrupted by sin naturally rejects anything that doesn’t feel pleasant. Trials come with an urge to escape, to do something to stop the suffering, to end the stress, to soothe the pain. When we choose to endure, we call upon the Lord for help to endure trusting He will work all things out for our good. But even then, we are tempted to do something ungodly to remove the unpleasantness of the trial. And the key to resisting temptation under trial is to consider it all joy.
To consider the entirety of a trial as joy requires mental acrobatics. To allow our mind to function normally, it will default to dislike and disaffection. Joy will not be where our thoughts land. We must contort our thoughts and bend our imagination to the realm of eternity.
We want the displeasure to cease and desist making way for immediate relief. However, in the realm of eternity, the difference between absolute pleasure and complete suffering is our ability to endure the discomfort in the immediate. We can easily escape now with a variety of activities that temporarily removes all aches and pains such as alcohol or drugs. We can successfully push back on those responsible for our state with anger, screaming, and yelling. We can hide away in our bedroom refusing to interact with anyone. None of these, however, deliver us from eternal suffering. None of these will even deliver us from our temporal trouble.
It is when we force our thoughts into the shape of eternity that we are able to recognize the moment for what it is. Suffering is an opportunity given to enlighten us about our need for God’s help. We lean into this need and call out to Him. This act requires faith, perhaps greater faith than we have. Remaining in the moment without escaping but calling on the Lord, we will find ourselves filled with strength to endure, wisdom to navigate, and the power to overcome. We will have drawn near to God and closer to the eternal bliss that comes only from faith in Him.
When we reframe the moment as an opportunity to alleviate pain forever compared to a momentary assuage, the prospect of eternal bliss will produce a calm cheerfulness as we endure.
Lord, teach me to focus beyond the now to behold the eternal and take captive my thoughts to mold them into the shape of Heaven so that I can count my trials as an occasion for joy. Amen.