I was just reading Sarah Markley’s blog, which, among other things, is about counting her blessings. Smart thing to do. Sage advice that we often miss. And she says it so well.

But then I thought about my post yesterday about suffering. About the grief we HAD to experience in order for our faith to be purified. This purification process is painful. And yet, Peter says, “You are filled with inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” This isn’t talking about heaven, it’s about the day by day, piece by piece reconstruction of what was lost in the fall. It’s like James saying, “Consider it pure joy, my bruthas and sistas, when you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish it’s work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:2-3). Pure joy? Like, not mixed with angst or anger or impatience? Wow. That’s serious.

Peter insists we HAD to experience this grief. James says perseverance MUST finish its work, and that it only comes through trials.

So here’s a thought: Sure, count your many blessings, count ’em one by one. But what about counting our struggles… not to rack up a macabre list of depression inducing horrors… but with the attitude that God is purifying us, that this HAS to happen, that it MUST finish its work, that we’re growing up in our salvation. That we’re being set free.

Embrace the pure, glorious, inexpressible joy of personal transformation! The thing is, we won’t develop perseverance or experience the freedom of incremental purity unless we respond to the trial, the grief, the way God wants us to. In I Peter 1:22, it says, “You have purified yourselves by obeying the truth.” Purified ourselves? I thought God did that.

No, he doesn’t. He turns up the heat, arranges or allows the trials, forces our junk to the surface. But he won’t actually scoop off the slag for us. He hands us the ladle and says, “Have at ‘er.”

“Rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit…” (2:1).

See, he sets up the opportunity to change, but we have to choose it. In every single trial, with every wave of angst and grief and stress and yuckiness, a choice comes to us — a choice to get rid of the bad attitude and selfishness and pride that the trial stirred up, or to rationalize it, blame others, sweep it under the carpet, and move on like nothing happened. In a trial, God is saying, “Hey, look what I found.” It will be some ugly character flaw we don’t want to look at. But as we do, as we follow his lead and put aside these sins and flaws, that’s when we realize we’re being changed, that our faith is being purified, that WE are being purified. That’s when the pure, glorious, inexpressible joy kicks in. Count your many struggles, people. And rejoice in them.