Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.James 1:2-4 ESV
These verses are always met with such mixed emotions—either you think James is insensitive and crazy for suggesting we rejoice when hardship hits our lives, or you think you’re supposed to put on a happy face and grin through the turmoil.
Neither is true. James is not telling us to deny our emotions. He’s not telling us to act as if we don’t feel a certain way. Hardship hurts; grieving is painful. It’s not natural to be joyful in the face of devastating loss or pain. The emotions we feel when we face trials in our lives are powerful and they are real. Whether the suffering is happening inside your marriage or outside, God is not asking you to deny how you feel. We know from multiple places in Scripture that Jesus embraced strong emotions—he wept at the death of his friend Lazarus (John 13:33) and he prayed with loud cries and tears (Hebrews 5:7). Jesus didn’t act like everything was fine when His pain was real, and He isn’t telling you to deny your feelings. When you hurt, you have the permission to feel every one of those deep emotions.
Hear me on this—the way that you feel in a trial or in conflict is legitimate. The way you feel in response to the brokenness in this world or your spouse’s sin is real. And you are entitled to feel that way. I think Scripture is sometimes misunderstood in regards to emotions—we are told to show grace, we are told to forgive, we are told to rejoice always, so some misinterpret those directives to mean we shouldn’t feel those difficult or dark emotions. We are told to trust our Sovereign God is working all things out for our good, we are told not to despair, so we somehow think it’s wrong if we do. We read we should not be anxious, so we tell ourselves it’s wrong to feel overwhelmed. We deny our feelings because we believe feeling negative emotions somehow denies the presence of God in our lives.
Sometimes it’s our spouse who tells us we have no right to feel a certain way. They deny the wounds that their words or actions inflict by calling our response ridiculous. Our feelings are minimized as we’re met with an eyeroll and told to stop being so sensitive. I was just joking.
Your feelings don’t need to be founded; they don’t need to be proven; they don’t need to be ‘right’ by someone else’s definition. You don’t need to defend them. You are entitled to your emotions simply because you feel that way.
The psalms are full of words that come from times of great distress and trouble. They are unashamed cries for help, for salvation, for rescue from the pit of despair. God isn’t asking you to deny how you feel, He’s asking you to bring every one of those difficult emotions to Him. He cherishes your tears (Psalm 56:8). Whether the pain is caused by your spouse or the world, He wants you to bring your pain to Him. He comforts us in our struggle (2 Corinthians 1:4), and He walks through our trials with us (Isaiah 43:2). As believers, we grieve with hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13). We grieve with hope. We still grieve, we still weep, we still feel pain and sorrow. We get anxious, we get overwhelmed, we even get angry, but the difference is we do it with the hope of things to come. Our response as believers to those difficult emotions should distinguish us from the world as we have something different at work in us. Beneath those deep emotions, there is the confidence that God is in control working all things out for the good of those who love Him. Biblical joy in suffering is not denying our feelings, it’s not putting on a happy face, it’s not simply an optimistic outlook. Biblical joy is the hope in God and His promises.
Press on ~ you are loved.
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