Joy is simply the knowledge that it is well with our souls, despite our present circumstances. It may not be well with our bodies. It may not be well with our job, or with our particular circumstances. But because Jesus died for our sins, and because he was raised for our justification, it is well with our souls, despite everything else we are going through, and despite how we may feel at any given moment. And the only reason we can have joy in the midst of difficult circumstances is because we know that God’s anger with us was dealt with at the cross, once and for all. Whatever trials we may be experiencing do not come about because God is retributively punishing us. Rather, trials will come because God is allowing our faith to be tested, so that our faith becomes stronger, and so that we become steadfast and more resolute. Therefore, says James, we are to accept these trials as a means of testing, and allow God to make us complete, by bringing his work in us to its fruition. This is how our faith becomes perfect and complete, not lacking in anything. Trials are the refining fire, the means by which our faith is made strong, steadfast, built-up, robust. Suffering of any sort is horrible. No one wants to suffer. No one likes to suffer. But suffering does have a purpose in God’s economy–even if that purpose is known only to God. James can exhort his reader to count our trials as an occasion for joy, because Christians know that God is accomplishing his mysterious purposes in us, and that purpose involves bringing us to maturity.