"Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trial of various kinds..." (James 1:2).
I've been thinking a lot about James the past couple of months because it is the focus for the year in our high school ministry, Momentum. One thing I love about it is how James doesn't shy away from getting into the thick of things right away. Count it joy when you face trials? As the second sentence of your letter? Seriously? James goes on to explain there are reasons why we can count it joy, and they're all great, however in the middle of a trial those often are not the words we're looking for. "It's ok, this will make you stronger and develop you" just rings hollow when everything seems to be falling apart around you.
As I was thinking about this it dawned on me that I have experienced this underlying joy before. I was taken back to when I was a small kid and did something (crashed my bike, fell, I can't really remember) that resulted in a massive wipeout. Scrapes, bruises, pain and perhaps some embarrassment. Do you know where I ran? To Mom. It was there that you got a big hug and taken care of...where there was a warmth that had nothing to do with the temperature...where there was joy in the middle of suffering. I still hurt, my injuries hadn't gone away, but something deeper (C.S. Lewis I think would say "more real") was at work.
This is the joy that James is talking about. The trials, the pain, the suffering don't go away, but when we're safely in the lap of God something much deeper takes place and so we are to stand firm because He knows just how bad it is and understands and cares more than we can ever imagine. That is the nature of His love for us and the joy we can experience because of it.