Count It All Joy?

The title of this message is taken from James 1:2-4, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.  And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”

The first time I read these verses I couldn’t see how doing this could be possible.  As life moved along, I endured many difficult trials, and I’ll admit I wasn’t successful in “counting it ALL joy” as James instructs.  But before you agree whole-heartedly let me say that I believe there is something in “counting it all joy” that is possible for us to walk in.  Let me start by sharing a personal experience:

I was lying on a small cot in the hospital room near the bed where our three-year old son, Mathew, lay sound asleep.  Just two months after turning three, our first-born son began having seizures.  After several of these episodes, a neurologist ordered E.E.G.s, brain scans and medications.  This particular night was spent in the hospital after Mathew had endured numerous tests, all showing a normal brain.

I lay there unable to sleep, my heart racing from fear, my mind cluttered with doubt, confusion and the dreadful “what ifs.”  In the midst of the turmoil, I uttered desperate prayers, crying out to the Lord for help, for mercy, for an answer.  Suddenly, I heard a sound that seemed to envelope my entire head where I lay.  It was unlike anything I had ever heard.  It didn’t frighten me.  There was a settling peace within the sound.  It was like the sound of what I would imagine Angel wings making as they fluttered back and forth.  As I heard this sound, a strong presence of the Lord came over every part of me and I heard a voice speak softly, “Mathew is going to be fine.”  At that point I was in a soft whirl-wind of peace that settled everything in me, and I drifted off to sleep.

But the trial of seizures continued for seven long months, testing our faith, our spiritual strength, and our commitment to following God.  Testing us more than anything we’d ever experienced before or since.  I wondered, “Is there something we’re going to gain from this?  Lord what do you want us to learn?  Can we hurry up and learn it and bring this whole thing to an end?”

Medication after medication was tried with no success.  The seizures increased, and toward the end, Mathew was seizing every few seconds.  At this point, the Neurologist gave us a devastating prognosis:  “I think your son has a rare brain disease and won’t live past the age of five.”  Matt and I had been claiming promises in God’s word, we had been feeding ourselves with the Holy Scriptures, and when the doctor announced his diagnosis, my first thoughts went to these words, “I will not believe the report of man, I will believe the report of the Lord.”  I remembered those soft words spoken to me in the hospital, as well as many scriptures of promise.

A few years before, I had experienced God’s divine healing in my own body, so as Mathew’s condition grew worse, everything in me was clinging to the promise, “God’s going to heal Mathew.”  Even though I had all of this, I still had many opportunities to doubt those words.  We are so moved by what we see and it is difficult to “Speak to that which is not as though it were.”

Matt and I had many godly people around us praying for us and Mathew, believing for God to heal Mathew.  We are so grateful for such tremendous support.  At the end of the seventh month, there was breakthrough, and Mathew was healed.  Leading up to Mathew’s healing, we had begun seeing another Doctor.  He not only confirmed the healing, but still says to this day, “God healed your son.”

Throughout this very difficult trial, we turned to God’s Word and to worship.  While Matt was at work and I was home dealing with the situation, in order to avoid giving in to fear, I had to focus on God’s Word and lift up praises with worship and singing.  Before putting Mathew to bed at night, I would read the Bible to him and then he and I would worship the Lord together.  Many times we would be engulfed in God’s presence as we lifted up our “sacrifices of praise.”  Mathew’s small hands would be lifted up as he worshiped in-between seizures.  Isaiah 61 begins, “He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; to grant to those who mourn in Zion, to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit, that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified.”  These words were quoted by Jesus in Luke 4:18-19.

The ultimate test for us came before Mathew was healed.  Matt and I had to come to the commitment that even if God doesn’t heal Mathew, we would still serve Him.  It was just days after we made this commitment that everything turned in another direction toward Mathew’s healing.  Philippians 4:4 says, “Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say rejoice.”  We couldn’t rejoice in our son’s suffering, but we could rejoice in God and who He is in our situation.  This was powerful for us to grasp.  Matt and I received great encouragement from many of the Psalms.  I love the words in Psalm 44:1-2, “Blessed be the Lord, my rock, who trains my hands for war, and my fingers for battle; he is my steadfast love and my fortress, my stronghold and my deliverer, my shield and he in whom I take refuge. . . .”  We felt the battle of the enemy of our souls.  Satan wanted us to give up and give in and lose hope.

What I love about King David is he was so real and honest about his emotions and struggles.  I could relate to his words in these verses:  “Give ear to my prayer, O God, and hide not yourself from my plea for mercy!  Attend to me, and answer me; I am restless in my complaint and I moan, because of the noise of the enemy. . .My heart is in anguish within me; the terrors of death have fallen upon me.  Fear and trembling come upon me, and horror overwhelms me.  And I say, Oh that I had wings like a dove!  I would fly away and be at rest; I would hurry and find a shelter from the raging wind and tempest.  But I call to God, and the Lord will save me.  Evening and morning and at noon I utter my complaint and moan, he hears my voice.  He redeems my soul in safety from the battle that I wage, for many are arrayed against me.”  (Ps.55) “Oh God, save me, by your name, and vindicate me by your might.  O God, hear my prayer; give ear to the words of my mouth.  Behold, God is my helper; the Lord is the upholder of my life.  He will return the evil to my enemies; in your faithfulness put an end to them.  I will give thanks to your name, O Lord, for it is good.  For he has delivered me from every trouble and my eye has looked in triumph on my enemies.”  (Ps. 54)

What I appreciate about David is that he was honest about how he felt and what he was thinking, but he always came back to praising God and remembering His goodness to him.

It’s true that this life can dish out tough times where we are left with a desperation for God to send the breakthrough, our victory.  Matt and I had many victories within our own hearts before Mathew was healed physically.  We had spiritual surgery within us in the trial and testing.  And we can “Count it ALL joy,” knowing that God will work good things out of every situation and He is ever working within us to make us more like Him.

Let’s pray:
Dear Heavenly Father, you are so wise, all knowing, you know everything about us and you know what needs to be rooted out and what needs to be formed in us.  Please help us in these times of trial and testing of our faith that steadfastness will be produced in us and we will be complete, lacking nothing in YOU.  Help us to never go back to who we were so we can become all that you want us to become.  Thank you that we are never alone, that you are with us helping us through every hardship.  Help us to stand on your Word and promises and to know that You are faithful and You will see us through.
We ask this all in the blessed name of Jesus,
Amen.

*All scripture references are from the English Standard Version

3 Comments on “Count It All Joy?”

  1. Scott  |  July 26, 2008 8:52 am

    Thank you.

  2. Ron  |  July 28, 2008 9:39 am

    Matt & Sherry,
    The devotional was an encouragement and some times we think especially in the middle of adversity that we are the only ones going through this stuff. How selfish(on my part) and I know going through my stuff as we all have it, praying for others has gotten my focus off me and on others needs. Your devotional is a wonderful reminder of the ability of our Father as we pray through Jesus shed blood covenant how faithful Jesus Christ really is. Please pray for our friends who are pregnant and she is fighting the good fight with her husband against cancer in her body and the pertection of the unborn child in her womb. Jesus is faithful and they know that they know she and the baby are going to be fine. God is truly the author of that peace you mentioned in your devotional. Thank you guys for serving the King of Kings and your obedience as you follow Christ and count it “all joy”

    In Christ,
    Ron

  3. Cheri  |  August 22, 2008 2:48 am

    What a blessing to read your telling of a great testimony from your life! How precious to realize the REALNESS of God’s promise to never leave us or forsake us as we walk out this new life in Christ. Great is his Faithfulness!! Thank you for sharing an honest and inspiring snapshot that demonstrates for sure the goodness and wisdom of choosing obedience to that command to “count it all joy!”


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