Growing through the pain
When troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. -James 1:2
You might be thinking surely this is a misinterpretation by the translators. Nope. It means exactly what it says. So how is this even possible? I know the first time I remember really reading this, stopping with a "Wait what????"
In my experience, I am learning that this is actually possible. The reason troubles can be considered opportunities for great joy is because they are opportunities for great growth as a person - opportunities for great spiritual growth. Here are three areas I have experienced great spiritual growth (reason for great joy) through my own times of trouble and stress:
1) Prayer. Through very stressful and troubling times, such as the loss of a close family member or the loss of job, we have the opportunity to really grow in our prayer lives. Some of us only pray when troubles come our way. It is my opinion that this shows the lack of real relationship with God, and does not really honor Him. Going through difficult times must not be the only time we pray, but these are opportunities for great joy because they are opportunities to grow as pray-ers.
2) Endurance. Recently, for the first time ever, I ran a 5K. In preparation for the race, I spent painful hours developing the endurance to be able to run that far. It's the same of the spiritual life as it is with the physical body, endurance does not just happen. The only way to gain endurance is to face opportunities to endure. Opportunities to endure troubles are opportunities for great joy because through them, we grow stronger!
3) Faith. It is through numerous seasons of stress and pain that I have grown to trust God completely. Faith only grows as it is tested. God desires to use our hurts and difficult circumstances to help us grow into trusting Him more and more. Life can be difficult. Suffering is inevitable. But how respond is a choice. Trust in God, and on the other side of your troubles, your faith will be stronger.