James pictures these disenfranchised Israelites as “falling into” trials. The phrase “falling into” might be better translated “encountering.” It is the same term used in the story of the good Samaritan of the man who “fell among thieves.”
By the use of these words, it is obvious that the suffering believers were not overtaken by some sinful activity or temptation. Rather, they were being exploited and slandered and litigated by the rich. God was allowing these experiences to strengthen and mature their faith.
For the Jews, the trials were packaged as persecution. For us today, they could be any number of things: the loss of a job, a divorce, trouble with our children, severe financial strain, illness or death in the family, or relational problems over which we have little control.
It would be easy for us to reason that since we are not experiencing any difficulty at this time, such teaching on trials is not applicable to us. But please note that James does not say if you encounter trials, but when you encounter trials.
And when these inevitable trials come, our first strategy, according to James, is to consider it all joy.
To consider it all joy in the midst of our trials is to respond with a deliberate, intelligent appraisal of our situation. We must learn to look at the experience from God’s perspective and recognize the trial not as a happy experience in itself but as a means of producing something very valuable in life.
Philip Yancey helps us to understand this often-misunderstood concept:
“’Rejoicing in suffering’ does not mean Christians should act happy about tragedy and pain when they feel like crying. Such a view distorts honesty and true expression of feelings. Christianity is not phony. The Bible’s spotlight is on the end result, the use God can make of suffering in our lives. Before He can produce that result, however, He first needs our commitment of trust in Him, and the process of giving Him that commitment can be described as rejoicing.”
As you live in the present consider the future, think forward to the future. Gloom now, but glory in the days to come.