Interesting how life ebbs and flow! Writing is something I have enjoyed for quite a while, whether personal journaling or blogging. Lately, it seems I have been in a season of distractions when it comes to the inspiration it takes to get me writing in either area. Maybe that’s a thing of the past…perhaps I’ve just been letting those distraction have too much power in my life.
Today, I began my day earlier than usual. It is still very quiet and peaceful, my favorite condition to find myself in; especially for pondering important stuff and for writing. In our modern, fast paced lifestyle, it is often illusive and hard to find. Determined to do just that, I got up early, settled in my reading chair and opened a new Bible-fresh, unmarked, clean slate. Because a passage in James has come up several times since late September, I began my reading there. First, I ran across a devotional about James. It intrigued me and pulled me in. At the end, it asked three great questions. Basically the paraphrased version would be:
How can you see God’s hand of blessing in your life today?
Have you seen God go above and beyond your expectations? How?
In this season, how is God asking you to be a blessing to someone?
Wow! Answering those questions challenged me to think, to answer, to pray, and to get busy reading.
Blessings: A loving and faithful God who knows everything about me and call me worthy because of Jesus; a terrific family; answered prayers for resolution of a couple health issues; just to get started.
Exceeded expectations: Going through a recent surgery with only a few hours down time and very little pain. Which because of the other circumstances happening, was a blessing way above and beyond anything I could have asked or imagined!!
Season to be a blessing: Approximately 36 hours after surgery, a very close family member in my husband’s family graduated to heaven. Together we are being called to a season of more responsibility and caregiving; hopefully to be a blessing and not a stumbling block.
Back to James! Verse 2 is a show stopper! This gets me every time. “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds…”. James1:2 Most everyone who has heard a sermon on this portion of James has heard a pastor say, “notice that it does not say IF you face trials.” In every version or translation I have ever read, it clearly states that we are to consider it all joy or pure joy when or whenever trials come. Stated this way, it becomes clear that in every one of our lives it is inevitable (certain and un-avoidable) we will encounter trials. Yet when one comes our way, it seems to surprise us or even shock us. Human nature I suppose.
Familiar with this passage since early adulthood, it still strikes me fresh and anew every single time I read it! Perhaps that says as much about me as it does the actual verse, however I think it really shows us how counter-intuitive it is to our human nature. God sees the end of the situation even before it begins. We humans do not. It is a stretch for us to look beyond the initial aggravation of whatever trial presents itself to us and search for a lesson to be learned as we go through that trial that will bring us out on the other side better than we were before we went through it.
When the trial or struggle comes, what will we do with it. We may not be able to keep it from coming. We may not be able to avoid it. So, what next? I personally think it comes down to what we do with it. Do we just wrestle and struggle with it; do we fight against it; ignore it; give in to it; become overwhelmed by it; or go into problem solving mode to fix or solve it? Some would say we should ask what we are supposed to learn from it.
Responses vary probably as much as people. Scripture seems to be saying it is an opportunity to be joyful or choose joy; not because we have the trial or the problem. Because God is faithful and if we turn to Him in the circumstance and trust Him to see us through. When we take our struggle to Him, it tests our faith; producing endurance in the trial. Can we get through this situation? Will God answer our prayers about it? Will He answer them the way we want Him to answer? Is there a reason for Him to answer differently that we can not see/understand? Do we trust when the Word says that Gods’ ways and thoughts are higher than our ways and thoughts?
” because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” James 1:3-4
Trials, bring about the testing of faith according to James. Testing of faith leads too endurance. Endurance when fully acting or in full effect brings about a maturity; completeness. Is it possible that faith could be compared to a muscle and the more exercise it gets, the stronger it gets. Could it be the stronger your faith gets, the less we panic or worry when another problem hits and the sooner we take it to our Heavenly Father in prayer?
Please know in these questions and ramblings, I am not trying to oversimplify. Life can be difficult and overwhelming at times. Sometimes it seems problems come in waves as often and as rhythmic as the waves hit the shoreline. I do find comfort that the very next section assures us that when we need wisdom all we have to do is ask God. It assures us that He gives wisdom freely, generously. James also warns us. Ask in faith. Don’t doubt. Be single minded, sure that He will answer. Find yourself doubting? I do, and find myself praying… “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24)
I also find a great deal of comfort that the endurance of trials come with a promise or a reward if you will. James 1: 12 says, “Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.” I hope that you find this as encouraging and helpful as I did this morning. I certainly needed this reminder and though I didn’t make it through a whole chapter these words breathed fresh life into my heart. Finally, I would like to encourage you with the following words that James penned many years ago:
“Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of first-fruits of all he created.” James 1:16-18
Grace and Peace to you!