Summary: We are never to feign happiness in pain, but if we are growing in Christ-likeness, we should be demonstrating a more eternal, positive perspective (considering it pure joy), because we are realizing that we are training for reigning.
Depth of character is realized under pressure. Anyone can be a Christian when things go well, but how do you do when a little pressure, a little pain, a little discomfort, criticism or gossip, a sick child, loss of income, are applied? When your fruit is squeezed, what kind of juice comes forth? We must remember that it is God’s will, “that you should be sanctified” (1 Thessalonians 4:3; Romans 8:29), to make you whole, mature and complete, not to make you happy, but to conform you into the image of Christ Jesus – the true blessing. We should see our struggles as opportunities for growth. God will not leave you alone with your problems; He is as close as you will allow and will help you grow.
James, Jesus’ brother, wrote, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:2-4). James does not say IF we face trials, but WHENEVER. We are either in a storm, just coming out of one, or there are storm clouds brewing on the horizon. Storms are a normal part of the journey.
We are never to feign happiness in pain, but if we are growing in Christ-likeness, we should be demonstrating a more eternal, positive perspective (considering it pure joy), because we are realizing that we are training for reigning. Instead of focusing on the problem, we should focus on what we should be learning (Romans 2:7; 5:3-5; 8:24,25; 2 Corinthians 6:3-7; 2 Peter 1:2-9).
In an interview by Paul Bradshaw with Rick Warren, author of The Purpose Driven Life, Rick Warren said:
People ask me, "What is the purpose of life?" And I respond, "In a nutshell, life is preparation for eternity." We were made to last forever, and God wants us to be with Him in Heaven. One day my heart is going to stop, and that will be the end of my body - but not the end of me. I may live 60 to 100 years on earth, but I am going to spend trillion of years in eternity. This is the warm-up act, the dress rehearsal. God wants us to practice on earth what we will do forever in eternity. We were made by God and for God, and until you figure that out, life isn’t going to make sense.
Life is a series of problems: Either you are in one now, you’re just coming out of one or you’re getting ready to go into another one. The reason for this is that God is more interested in your character than your comfort. God is more interested in making your life holy than He is in making your life happy. We can be reasonably happy here on earth, but that’s not the goal of life. The goal is to grow in character, in Christ-likeness.
This past year has been the greatest year of my life but also the toughest, with my wife, Kay, getting cancer. I used to think that life was hills and valleys - you go through a dark time, then you got to the mountaintop, back and forth. I don’t believe that anymore. Rather than life being hills and valleys, I believe that it’s kind of like two rails on a railroad track, and at all times you have something good and something bad in your life. No matter how good things are in your life, there is always something bad that needs to be worked on.
And no matter how bad things are in your life, there is always something good you can thank God for. You can focus on your purposes, or you can focus on your problems. If you focus on your problems, you’re going into self-centeredness, which is "my" problem, "my" issues, "my" pain.
But one of the easiest ways to get rid of pain is to get your focus off yourself and onto God and others.
We discovered quickly that in spite of the prayers of hundreds of thousands of people, God was not going to heal Kay or make it easy for her. It has been very difficult for her, and yet God has strengthened her character, given her a ministry of helping other people, given her a testimony, drawn her closer to Him and to people...You have to learn to deal with both the good and the bad of life.
Actually, sometimes learning to deal with the good is harder. For instance, this past year, all of a sudden, when the book sold 15 million copies, it made me instantly very wealthy. It also brought a lot of notoriety that I had never had to deal with before.