His life was filled with untold sorrow and hardship. Their first two years in India were incredibly difficult. He quickly ran out of money and his family lived in squalor. Their five year old son, Peter, died of dysentery, and Dorothy suffered an emotional and mental breakdown, from which she never recovered. She died after ten years of insanity. In 1812 his entire warehouse, full of printing presses, type, and unpublished manuscripts was destroyed by fire. He responded with joy, believing God would bring good. He lived out the command of James to consider it all joy when we encounter various trials.
What about you? Can your spouse, children, parents, or closest friends say that your life is characterized by joy? What isbiblical joy? It does not depend on circumstances. Habakkuk, though facing the destruction of Judah, was able to say,
‘Though the fig tree should not blossom, though there be no fruit on the vine, though the yield of the olive should fail, though the fields produce no food, though the flock should be cut off from the fold, though there be no cattle in the stall, I will exult in the Lord my God. I will rejoice in the God of my salvation’ (Hab.3:17-19).
Biblical joy is an inward exultation based on a gift received or to be received. The gift received or to be received is the fulness of salvation (Psa. 47). Joy is tied to the ministry of the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:22) and it comes largely through suffering (Phil. 3:10, Acts 5:41).
When James commands us to consider it all joy, he does not command us to feel joy. A woman who loses her young husband in an automobile accident will not feel joy. She will feel sorrow. James is not saying that other Biblical emotions are not acceptable — things like love, peace, patience, righteous anger. He is not saying that everything that happens in life is good. God blessed my wife and me with six children. Three of them are living and three are not. It is not good that three died (two at five months in the womb, one at six weeks outside the womb), but God turned it to good (Rom. 8:28).
True joy is an inward exultation, a peace, a confidence, that God will bring good, that his comforting presence is enough. It looks to the fulness of our eternal salvation — God’s electing grace, the propitiating death of the Lord Jesus, the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit, the glory of a full salvation that justifies, sanctifies, adopts, and one day will glorify us. It is like the young mother who willingly and joyfully undergoes the pain of childbirth, who after the baby is placed on her chest, weeps with joy. She glows at the beautiful gift God has given her and her husband.
How can you get there? Admittedly we fall short of what God commands. You get there by embracing the telos. James says that the testing of our faith produces endurance, that endurance is to have its perfect result, that we may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. Jesus says the same thing (Matt. 5:10-12). So does Paul (Rom. 5:3-5) and Peter (1 Pet.er 1:3-9). Embrace the journey! Believe God is working in you to do and to will for his good pleasure, for your growth in holiness. And you must delight in the gift (Eph. 2:8-10). Every aspect of your salvation, from beginning to end, is from God. You are his workmanship (poema, our word for poem) which God prepared beforehand for glory. Joy comes as you step back and take it all in — you are a work in progress, one which God will surely complete. The finality of your gift to be received on that great day is glory beyond your wildest dreams. William Carey knows that glory even this moment.