My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.
~James 1:2-4, NKJV
Here’s another way of saying it:
Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.
~James 1:2-4, MSG
When I first read James’ encouragement to be joyful when tempted I was confused. Why would I want be joyful about being tempted? I want to be pure, holy, just, and righteous. If these virtues are in me I don’t want anything to threaten them. I don't want to be tempted. How can there be joy found in temptation?
Though I don't want to be tempted, I have been tempted. Temptations are unavoidable, and they come into my life whether I like them or not. And some of the challenges I’ve faced have surprised me because, though I thought I knew myself well, I was completely unaware of what I found in my heart. Being confronted with these unexpected heart matters is difficult because it forces me to admit my weakness. That is never easy.
But as I’ve studied and contemplated James’ words and applied them to my life I’ve started to understand why he encourages a joyful perspective towards temptation. Tests, challenges, trials, and temptations—they reveal what is in my heart. If I'm never given the opportunity to recognize the truth about myself I'll never have the opportunity to confront myself and change.
As temptations reveal the truth about me, rather than succumb to my ego and give in, if I turn away from myself and toward Him my faith in Him becomes stronger. That is when His strength is made perfect in my weakness. And every time I choose Him over me I experience profound joy.
This relationship with Him really is a joyful journey—even when the journey is difficult—and even when I am tempted along the way.