I love this picture of Jesus laughing! I think too often we vision Him as somber, even stern. But He talked about giving us joy. At His birth, the angels proclaimed “Joy to the world.”
Studying the book of James this week I again realized how much we miss when the Bible is translated from the languages of Hebrew and Greek into English. James begins his letter by saying what is translated in most of our English version as “Greetings.”
To me I have just thought James was basically saying hello. Just the kind of start to a letter we often would use (in the days when we really wrote letters instead of texting or posting on Facebook).
Hi! How are you? I am fine.
As I began to take a more serious look at this word, I find it has much more meaning than just “hi”.
The word James used is “chariein” and it means basically “to rejoice exceedingly” or “to be well.” Used as a greeting James was essentially saying “joy to you.”
“Joy to you” seems a great way to start a letter to friends. Hey, I’m wishing you joy, happiness, that you do well. We do this for birthdays, anniversaries, Christmas.
On continuing to read this letter it is clear that James is not just being friendly in wishing his readers joy. After saying “joy to you” he immediately speaks of times of difficulty, trials, tests.
Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy.
Hold on there a minute James!
You just wished joy and well-being to your readers and then you talk about troubles. What gives?
James was writing to the Jewish people who had accepted Jesus as the Messiah but who were now experiencing difficulties because of their belief. He indicated difficult times can be opportunities not just for joy – but great joy.
Hold on there a minute James!
Difficult times bring joy? Trials, tests bring joy? What are you – some kind of Pollyanna?
James is not suggesting to his readers that they thank God when a loved one dies, when they get cancer or lose a job. (These are the things we think of as trials. The people James was writing to were probably experiencing more severe trials such as real persecution because of their stand for the Messiah, not just experiencing the normal cares of life that we characterize as trials.) Rather he was telling them they should recognize that these difficult times, while not in themselves something to take joy in, would bring about a real change in them – and that would be something to rejoice about.
When all kinds of trials and temptations crowd into your lives my brothers, don’t resent them as intruders, but welcome them as friends! Realize that they come to test your faith and to produce in you the quality of endurance. But let the process go on until that endurance is fully developed, and you will find you have become men of mature character with the right sort of independence.
Hey James, I think you are right. As I look back at times of real trials (like becoming a widow with two young girls at 33 or getting aggressive and advanced cancer at 53) I realize that those times brought me much closer to God and gave me a strength I would never have had without those difficult times. While I will never thank God for the death of my precious husband, for seeing my body deformed after surgical removal of a breast or for the effects I still suffer in my body because of chemo and radiation, I am thankful for the growth I gained because of those trials. I am thankful that I have truly discovered what Jesus was talking about when He spoke of the joy and peace He was giving us.
Finally, James not only tells his friends to find joy in difficult times, he lets them know how they can do that.
And if, in the process, any of you does not know how to meet any particular problem he has only to ask God—who gives generously to all men without making them feel foolish or guilty—and he may be quite sure that the necessary wisdom will be given him
You make it sound simple James! But life is not simple!
Oh I get it! That’s the beauty of the gospel. It is simple. Trust and obey. I sometimes make it so hard. My mind doesn’t want to just trust. I want detailed answers to my questions. I want to know the end before I take that step of faith God is asking me to take.
Peter sums it up pretty good in his letter to the church.
And though you have never seen him, yet I know that you love him. At present you trust him without being able to see him, and even now he brings you a joy that words cannot express and which has in it a hint of the glories of Heaven; and all the time you are receiving the result of your faith in him—the salvation of your own souls.
Yes that it is. It is a joy that words cannot express. Joy unspeakable and full of glory! To all my friends who follow me on my blog, chairein!