Probably every time someone has read these words for the first time they probably wondered how could anyone say that trouble brings opportunity for "great joy"?! But one of the facts of life is that you don't enjoy good health without sickness! You don't grow strong without experiencing weakness. You don't enjoy friendship until you learn to face loneliness. You really don't enjoy wealth until you know what its like to be poor. You also don't enjoy life until you face the fear of losing it. And I could go on and on.
You learn a lot when the going is tough. Just ask any soldier or Marine. Ask any lineman on a football team. Ask any quarterback too! Getting hit and being tackled a few times strengthens you and prepares you for the troubles you will undoubtedly face in any game. The same is true in life. Troubles have a way of helping us to learn endurance and patience. That's exactly what James points to in his first letter.
One of the qualities lacking in many Christians today is endurance. Being able to keep going when the going gets tough is part of Christian living. Paul spoke of enduring hardness and being faithful even unto death. The writer of Hebrews 11 gives example after example of those whose faith grew strong in the midst of adversity. Jesus made it clear that following Him up "Calvary's Road" was no "walk in the park!" It meant pain, mocking, imprisonment, even torture and death. But many have traveled that road for Jesus' sake. They saw the victories gained along the way as they shared the Gospel of Christ with the lost. Reaching the lost is often done when the roads you have to travel are dangerous.
I could go on and on. But my encouragement for those of you who really strive to grow strong in the Lord is that you will not shrink away from trouble. Don't go looking for it, but when it comes, learn the joys that trouble can lead you to have as you see yourself growing stronger and your endurance lasting longer in your walk with your Savior. I'm praying for you.