James places redemptive suffering, this revolutionary element of the gospel, right at the beginning of his letter. “Count it all joy, my brethren, when you meet various trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (1:2-4).
Like the books of Psalms, Proverbs, and Sirach, James reminds us that difficulties have always been part believers’ lives. In speaking of “various trials” that test our faith, he speaks of not just religious persecution but sickness, crime, loneliness, poverty – whatever tests our faith in God’s love, goodness, and justice. What is revolutionary in James’ statement, however, is the idea that Christians should look upon trials with intense joy. The Greek text helps us understand his rationale: “Joy” is charan, from the root word charis, or “grace.” Our trials are occasions for joy precisely because God’s grace is at work to bring us successfully through the period of testing and perfect the image of Christ in our souls. When James says that the testing of our faith produces “steadfastness,” or “endurance,” he uses the Greek term hypomonēn. Etymologically, it points to “remaining under” a heavy load. This load is Christ’s Cross that, like the Master, we must carry (Mt 16:24) if we are to become “perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (Jas 1:4).
Read more at Catholic Exchange