How Can We Rejoice in Suffering?

from the James reading plan

James 1:1-18, Jeremiah 31:7-14, Matthew 4:1-11, 1 Peter 1:6-7

How can we rejoice in suffering? It really seems like an outlandish question, doesn’t it? Suffering and rejoicing feel like opposites, and we prefer the rejoicing by a landslide. So how can these have any compatibility?

They cannot be compatible unless we can live in the depth of them both. We have to resist the superficial “just rejoice and be happy.” We cannot ignore our suffering.

Part of our problem is that we idolize comfort and efficiency. We live under the idea that if something is comfortable, then it is good; and if it is also efficient and productive, even better.

Enter: our suffering.

Christians are really good at asking about what we are learning in suffering, as if every horrible event that brings us to our breaking point could be summed up in some three-point action plan for becoming better people. I once heard someone say that we want suffering to be like a pregnancy—pain and discomfort for a set time, then a wonderful life lesson emerges in the end.

But suffering is real and painful. And we have no promise that in the end, if there even is an end, we will gain some lesson to pass forward. In suffering we encounter the reality that this is not how it is supposed to be, and that God is close to the brokenhearted. To grasp both of these is to rejoice.

Two years ago when I was thrown into the role of widower and single dad to four kids, I experienced a level of suffering that seemed unimaginable. By God’s grace and in my own frailty, I sat in my grief. I tried to avoid any quick fix, like a new addiction or moving on. I just sat and cried and suffered.

During that time, I felt completely inefficient and unproductive. Eventually, my joy began to return in the midst of this brokenness. James 1:3 says the testing of our faith produces steadfastness. I saw this steadfastness in the way God gave me the strength to get out of bed each morning; such a simple thing to rejoice in.

It is interesting that James moves from suffering and the benefits of suffering to this instruction: “If any of you lacks wisdom, let Him ask of God, who gives generously.” Perhaps our suffering is where we grasp the wisdom and goodness of God, and in this wisdom, we rejoice in His grace.

Suffering has the ability to shatter any superficial idol of comfort, and we would be wise to let it. Don’t run from your suffering, but rejoice that God will never leave you.

Written by Jason Tippetts

Post Comments (30)

30 thoughts on "How Can We Rejoice in Suffering?"

  1. Mick says:

    How often do I live for comfort? Seriously, though. Summer is coming and I abhor sweating, so I almost always have some kind of climate control regulating the temperature. In all truth, it’s really not that bad. This isn’t suffering. I’m not suggesting that at all, but this most definitely is evidence of the thirst for comfort on every level. Have I fashioned my life so that trials don’t come? Or even worse, is my life set up so that when trials do come I run to my comforts instead of dealing with the issue and potentially miss growing deeper in my faith and closer to God. Perhaps the sins I struggle with are perpetual because my comforts allow me to put up with it.

    God, there is no greater comfort to be found than knowing you’re always with me and that you’ve saved me. When I seek comfort during comfort, may it be in you and not in worldly pleasures.

  2. Micah Ensor says:

    Praise during suffering and trails? Easier said than done but I feel like even when you pause in suffering and recognize that you are in the midst of suffering and acknowledging the fact that you want to have a heart full of praise, even if you don’t “feel it” is a blessing and a victory. We live in a fallen and broken world… there are no two ways about it. We will go through trials and suffering and pain and disappointment. The more we can just expect this and know it’s coming is a start.

  3. Ken Fuller says:

    I haven’t suffered much since becoming a Christian. So I can’t say I have tested this Scripture and found it to be true.

    I have let temptation get the best of me from time and time. And to hear these words again is like a burr under my saddle. I would hope I never get to the point where I’m not bothered but this truth. There is so much here that I want to take in and live differently. I pray that reading James again will help me.

  4. Jeremy Petticrew says:

    I am currently in a job that is testing me daily. Some days I get home and just feel like I can’t deal with the personal attacks and demeaning comments at work anymore, but my wife is quick to set my mind on the Lord and what he has planned for us in the future.

  5. Alex says:

    We know the feeling of growing pains, and maybe suffering is similar signs of growth.

    God uses our suffering in order to humble us, to remind us that this world we live in and these bodies we live in aren’t as they should be. He also uses it to teach us, to test our faith with the intention of producing perseverance and a reliance on God. Speaking of reliance on God, we’re also told to ask for wisdom, and are promised that God will grant it IF we believe without doubt that God will give it to us.

    Suffering, whether seemingly insignificant or intense and seemingly never evening, is in line with God’s purpose; for His Glory and for our good. So we can rejoice in it, knowing that it is the signs of growth, knowing that God is in control, knowing that God will give us the support we need in it when we ask Him.

    – –

    I don’t necessarily agree with the statement that talks about how we desire suffering to be like pregnancy, saying that at the end there may not be a life lesson.
    God tells us in this very passage that the testing of our faith produces endurance. If that isn’t a wonderful life lesson, then I don’t know what is.

    God doesn’t allow us to suffer for no good reason, he uses suffering for His eternal purposes, to draw us closer to Him and make us more like Christ.

  6. Ethan Stallings says:

    This is the first study of any book of the Bible I have done in quite a while. This has lead me to be a different person and pick up traits that godly people, specifically godly men, do not have. The main one being anger. Over the past months I’ve transformed into an angry person and can turn almost anything into a fight. I started this study at the request of my wife in order to try to reverse the side effects of the world. I am a believer and am very active in the church I attend, however, I neglect my personal time with God. This first day of this study, even though it has nothing to do with what I struggle with, has been a breath of fresh air. I have caught a glimpse into what I let slip away and what I have been missing for these past months. I know that if I stick with this and if I actually listen, God will bring back who I was and completely restore me. God, thank You for this reminder that I’ve been missing You. Thank You for this open door back to You. Give me the discipline to not fall away again and please bring who I was completely. Thank You for everything. Amen

  7. Cam Smalley says:

    Pain is a part of everybody’s life but through god we can overcome that pain and sorrowness and eventually grow in our faith and become closer to God.

  8. Darin Blocker says:

    I agree. I think that suffering is the only way to break down the world of idols. We live to be comfortable, I especially live to be comfortable. I have lived in denial of that, thinking that I push myself to live with less comfort but within that drive I created routines and loops that brought me great comfort and as a result, I was less and less effective at what I was trying to accomplish. Now in the Army, I am being pushed to my mental limits and its effecting me on many levels. But within that I see Gods work in the world and in my life. Because of the suffering I go outside and cut through the noise of life and see the absolute beauty of God. Although I am not overly excited about this type of suffering I am dealing with, I am ready to continue to build my relationship with God, no matter what happens.

  9. Codey says:

    He is Provider. I’ve been so selfish in my trials. The ultimate purpose of my trials is more glory and praise to Him. What a small thing it should be to suffer for the One who suffered for me, that He should be made much of. I choose to trust You, and to take steps of faith in my mind and hand. I confess my lack of ability to handle these trials on my own. Show Yourself capable, Lord. What is too hard for You?

  10. Chris Cambell says:

    “In suffering we encounter the reality that this is not how it is supposed to be, and that God is close to the brokenhearted. To grasp both of these is to rejoice.”

  11. Kevin says:

    I love that he talks about suffering not being how it’s supposed to be. But since we aren’t perfect, it’s a reality that is there for us. God is close to the broken-hearted and that’s a beautiful thing because he doesn’t leave us in our suffering. If anything he’s closer wanting us to push into him with everything we have. Suffering in the world is looked at with the goggles of sadness and remorse, which certainly is true. But, God brings these trials into our lives for a very specific reason. Whether we see that or not, it’s there and something to lean on in the midst of what seems like hell.

  12. Jaxn Engstrom says:

    I agree when it says that through tests one will become stronger. I hate that I agree with that because no one likes to go through struggle. Some struggle we create ourselves and others are thrust upon us through something we can’t control.

    In my own life I have experienced how pain and suffering can bring me closer to God. However, when this pain inevitably passes by I tend to stray from God once again. I begin to think of how I can better myself only and not what I can do for God or where he is sending me.

    I would like to focus on keeping God in my daily routine this year. I also want to be open minded to change and struggle because this is how you develop integrity, by standing up for what I believe no matter what the circumstance.

  13. Clay says:

    I feel like I have made comfort, or rather the promise of comfort an idol. My job cycles through very busy and very slow periods and I spend the whole time I am “too busy” thinking about how I’m not living life to the fullest and how I just can’t wait to slow down so I can get back to having a balanced and fulfilling life. When I do slow down though, I tend to just become passive and lethargic and tend to resent anything that might upset the apple cart of my restful time of year, even though I spend most of my time feeling mildly depressed.

    I feel that I have an expectation that a life worth living can only come though the elimination of as many stressors as possible; however, that is an unrealistic and unattainable goal. As someone who struggled with severe anxiety at one point in my life and still deals with it to some extent, this is a somewhat logical conclusion. But what I realize is that God can give us peace and strength in the midst of trials in a way that is so much more fulfilling than just the mere cessation of the trial itself.

  14. Dalen Hanquist says:

    James says that when we experience trials, we have the opportunity to rejoice in Gods wisdom. So don’t avoid suffering, because it could bring us closer to the Lord

  15. Elijah says:

    Count it all joy my brothers when you encounter trials of various kinds…

    It seems like, lately, my life is nothing but trails and tribulations. Difficulties that threaten to swallow me whole.

    In my misery, I turned away from God… though if I’m being truthful my relationship with Him was never more than lukewarm.

    Trails are to produce steadfastness. Yet I sometimes wonder if there is anything inside me left to refine. I feel empty, oftentimes. As if I’m nothing more than a husk that is tossed through the waves of life.

    I try to turn to God, but it is so easy to slip back into apathy. I want the Lord to restore to me the joy of my salvation, but I also wonder… am I beyond redemption? Of course I don’t mean salvation. I mean fellowship. Am I still able to find a fellowship with God?

    I think the story of the Prodigal Son resonates with me more now than ever. It is from my sufferings that I realized how hopeless the world is when I seek my own glory within it. So I turn back to my Father’s abode. Hoping that I can beg forgiveness and be admired as a servant.

    I hope the Lord makes straight my paths, because I am prone to wander.

    I hope He lifts up my weary eyes, because they are full of tears.

    Please God, lift me from the more of my own creation, the sin that drags me down. Make me whole again, in your love and presence.

    In Jesus name I pray.

  16. Nico says:

    There’s a lot of sin in my life that I just don’t like admitting. And I feel like with it I’m struggling everyday. To the point I get depressed. I know what I have to do is confess the sin and then work on changing it. I’ve read James a lot and it’s like the Christian hand guide. I know I’m striving to be like this person

  17. Matthew says:

    God is faithful he has shown me that he is always there sometimes he is just waiting for me to listen.

  18. Eli says:

    There is a powerful assurance that comes with knowing “ if any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God. Who gives to all men liberally, and upbraideth not.”

    There should never be a moment in my trial that I forget the wisdom and insight one prayer away.

  19. Roy Rodas says:

    Don’t run through the valley of the shadow of death/suffering, rather walk and know that he is with you!

  20. Duncan S says:

    God never promises that it’s going to be an easy life walking with Him. In fact, He ensures that there will be suffering and trials. It’s important to know that God doesn’t do these things to you. God doesn’t just sit around thinking of ways to test you but He does stand beside you as you endure life’s curveballs that are thrown by Satan or our own sinful desires. During times of trial, if we keep our eyes on Jesus, He will teach us and give us wisdom to push through.

  21. Ryan Kirby says:

    Little did I know many years ago that James 1:3 would have such a profound impact on my life. “The testing of your faith will give you steadfastness (endurance).” I served 5 years in the Marine Corps infantry, with deployments to Afghanistan, and also deployments to non-combat zones. On my deployment to Afghanistan a mentor and brother of mine was killed by an IED, and little did I know that he would ultimately be the reason that led me back to Christ. When I transitioned from my active duty status to civilian I was completely lost, wallowing in my own self-pity. That was until my soon-to-be wife invited me to church with her family. On Easter Sunday, 2015, I had a vision while sitting in church that my friend was sitting right next to me with his hand on my shoulder, and God was standing over us as a shield saying “it’s okay Ryan, we are right here.” It was from that moment on that I realized that James 1:3-5 had been a constant subtitle in my life up to that very point. Through thoughts of suicide, or wishing I was dead, and through all of my shame and guilt, God had been testing me all along, simply waiting for me to break the chains that covered my heart. Once I let God in, nothing has or will ever be the same. James was surrounded by suffering, but yet he persevered and trusted in God. I did not understand at the time that my suffering was simply a test of my endurance, or steadfastness, but like James came to see the good in that suffering. Without that suffering I would have never been able to rejoice in the fact that we can call God the king of kings, and the lord or lords. Rejoice in your suffering, even though it may seem to be the furthest thing from what you believe God is calling you to do, for our Gods love is unwavering. He will never leave us or abandon us. Rejoice in your suffering, for it produces steadfastness, and never forget that through it all God has his hand on your shoulder. Much like that Easter Sunday, when hopelessness seemed to cover everything, God placed his hand on my heart and simply said, “I’m right here, and I’ve been here all along.” Father God I thank you for Ott, Danielle and her family, and my church home, Sanctuary, for they helped me to open up my heart and embrace your unwavering, never ending love.

  22. Kevin Lammons says:

    You can’t say “oh the devil has got me down”. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. We get ourselves down own our own. Reading James 1 with that thought is eye opening

  23. Christopher Rodriguez says:

    Thankful for the truth of God’s closeness in the midst of trials and suffering; for the security in knowing that He will use any situation to pour out grace and goodness in my life. I’m thankful that the fullness of His joy is available to strengthen me in difficult times and remind me that He will never leave me abandoned; but that He makes a way for me to see Him in greater ways.

  24. Rocky Garza says:

    I think at times suffering is hard to determine when it is not a huge loss or failure. It can seem selfish to label my own effectiveness or ability to provide as suffering. My inability to have discipline and then that leads to laziness and that to isolation and then to sin. Son was the product, but my selfishness kept me from sharing where I am now by hiding my needs.

  25. JeffJupp says:

    Thank You God for giving me this
    Being in kuwait I feel like I have no one to go to but every Sunday I get to go to this church where I am encouraged by the word I thank you for this church God I thank you for all the pastors kids that I’ve “ran into” in the Army
    (I don’t believe in coincidence)
    Thank you for giving me strength to love the unlovable and a heart for the hurting
    God I pray that I’d keep my eyes steadfastly on you and your goodness and your love and your mercy and thank you for these trials you put me through
    I hope that I can be a help to someone this week and I pray that you’d even put them in my path so I can minister to someone and help them God I thank you for all you give me
    Forgive me for all my short comings forgive me for my pride fullness my guilt my shame forgive me for taking my eyes off you
    God I ask that you’d give me a wife I know that I don’t deserve a good one but maybe you’d give me one that loves you and that might love me too
    God please help my mom to love herself and to love others more and pray for my sister and her relationship with you to be strong as she goes through her divorce I love you and I thank you for all that you do for me.
    Pray for Heather as she starts her new job this week give her a good nights rest and be with her and comfort her and give her confidence like no other and a joy that shines so bright!
    I give you complete control of my heart and my life I love you and in your name I pray Amen

  26. Parker says:

    James talks a lot about suffering and humility (being humble).
    The Bible itself talks a lot about the outcome of being Humble:
    -James 1:9, 1 Peter 5:6, James 4:6, James 4:10,
    2 Chronicles 7:14
    That in our suffering we have to believe God will give us the answer, victory, wisdom, acceptance, forgiveness etc. we have to believe that God will give us whatever we need to get through our suffering or just be able to endure it.

    Jeremiah 31 talks about how people should/will rejoice and have joy even while they are coming back to Christ. That as believers of God we can’t just forget about our sufferings or ignore them but we need to embrace the fact that God is with us and that we can rejoice in that!

    Mathew 4:1 we can be strong and confident knowing the spirit goes with us and before us in any situation and that should give us all of the confidence we need.

    1 Peter 1:6- “In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7 These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.”

    We have suffered before so that we can sing praises now

  27. Elijah says:

    It’s important not to lock out suffering. James states that “suffering produces steadfastness”. This is very true. Suffering is never pleasant, but to rise above it, and to see ourselves as children of God, we must understand that even suffering has a purpose.

  28. Brandon says:

    It is so true that the Lord is with us through our sufferings. Multiple times I have been through the worst moments in my life. But through time and prayer, the Lord has brought me closer to him and brought me better things. Right now for instance; a year ago or so I left a toxic relationship. I was devastated. I tried so hard for it to work. I was at my lowest point in life. I blamed God for not answering my prayers. I was afraid I would never find love again. That I would grow old alone. I decided to pray, to let God guide me on this journey of life. And just recently he placed a beautiful woman in my life who I believe will make me a better me. In fact she encouraged me to add this app. In closing, I firmly believe God will be through all times, highs and lows, and if you believe… you will be at the highest with him in the end!

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