Every philosophy of life out there – from the ancient Greeks to TikTok influencers – is ultimately looking for the answer to the question “How can I be happy?” And one of the biggest obstacles any view of life faces is the inevitability of suffering. Given that suffering comes to us all eventually, how can we face it without losing our joy?
Lots of answers have been given over the years. Desperately avoid it. Stoically push through it. Defiantly tell it “What doesn’t kill me makes me stronger”. Get therapy to recover after it. There’s an element of truth and wisdom to all those views. But our reading from James today proposes something far more paradoxical – “consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds” (James 1:2). Shocking though it may seem, James teaches that the Gospel gives us a joy which, far from being destroyed by suffering, can actually use suffering as a source of greater hope and joy.