You’ve heard the “triumph in tragedy” stories. Someone went through a very painful experience and was able to pull through as a better and stronger person. James tells us to consider it a great joy when undergoing various types of trials because we become stronger, more mature, well-rounded believers (James 1:2-5). Solomon tells us in Ecclesiastes 7:2-4, “It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for this is the end of all mankind, and the living will lay it to heart. Sorrow is better than laughter, for by sadness of face the heart is made glad. The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth” (ESV).
The accurate biblical view
These passages seem to indicate that Scripture paints pain, trials, sorrow etc. as good things, but does the Bible really paint that picture for us? The answer of course is, “no”. Pain and suffering are results of the Fall in Genesis 3. If trials are good, why did they not exist before sin? Why do we not pray for them? Why do we not ask God to send them to us, our children, family, friends, or any of our loved ones? If pain, suffering, sorrow, trials, and tragedy are good, why will they not exist in heaven? “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4). The obvious implication is they are not good, but they can be good teachers.
Pain is a negative force that can bring about positive results, but the pain itself is not good. It is through pain that we have learned some very important lessons in life. It is through our pain that we are able to relate to each other and sympathize with one another. It is through pain that we learn love and compassion. It is through pain we realize we need God and each other.
When you experience trials, do you spend all your time cursing the pain and praying it will go away? Or do you ask God what you can learn from all of this? James tells us to consider it a great joy because of what it produces in us. Does that mean we have to walk around with manufactured smiles plastered on our faces when we are going through a great tragedy? Of course not. Jesus was known as a man of sorrows (Isaiah 53:3), not a man of smiles. He openly expressed his grief and sorrow, and made no attempt to hide them (Matthew 26:36-39, Mark 13:33-34, Luke 22:44). Yet we read in Hebrews 12:2, “…who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross…” Jesus found joy in the midst of suffering.
Changing your perspective
Considering the joy of the trial is a matter of perspective, not demeanor. Joy is having the right perspective on sorrow. Never allow the pain to make you bitter or angry. Don’t curse the pain. Don’t pray for pain’s end before asking about its purpose. My prayer is that you find purpose in your pain. I want to leave you with this short and thought-provoking poem:
“Along the Road”
I walked a mile with Pleasure,
She chattered all the way,
But left me none the wiser,
For all she had to say,
I walked a mile with Sorrow,
And ne’re a word said she,
But, oh, the things I learned from her,
When Sorrow walked with me.
By: Robert Browning Hamilton
God bless you in your journey of growth.