Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds. (James 1:2)

SOME OF THE MOST JOYFUL PEOPLE I know are people who are experiencing more than their share of heartache. Still, they keep smiling—not a phony, plastered-on smile but a smile, that radiates confidence in God despite their circumstances.

No doubt the early Christians experienced the joy of the Lord as their strength in the midst of their trials. Their joy must have been contagious, for even persecution did not silence their witness or stop their numbers from increasing.

The same is true today. In places where our brothers and sisters in Christ are encountering fierce opposition and persecution, the church is growing. The genuineness of their faith is revealed in the joy they possess.

I can’t help but wonder if similar trials would strengthen or defeat me. Would I risk arrest for walking through the doors of my church? If I knew my home could be searched at any time and that I would be severely beaten if a Bible was found, would I risk owning one? Would I proclaim my faith in Christ despite ridicule and threats to my safety? Would I refuse to compromise biblical principles even if I knew it could land me in prison? And would I face all those trials joyfully, choosing, as Jesus did, to pray for my enemies and to persevere despite the price?

Ask God to give you a passion to pray for persecuted Christians.

Marlene Bagnull is a wife, mother, and grammy to three youngsters who live within walking distance. She directs two Christian writers’ conferences.