Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
Yesterday Pastor Morris talked about James 1:2-4, and since then I’ve been thinkin’. Here I offer a few of those thoughts. We in America have grown up never knowing in our hearts the true meaning of “trials.” Daily we receive enough food to feed ten people, wear high-quality clothes that we frequently replace, ride in expensive-to-run conveyances that allow us to avoid strenuous physical exercise, and rest secure in the knowledge that some of the world’s finest hospitals will care for us in times of sickness. Even spiritual trials seem almost petty when you consider that daily around the globe brothers and sisters in Christ suffer persecution, imprisonment, and even death for their beliefs. Not to denigrate or belittle our troubles, because when they come each of us surely feels that their troubles weigh like mountains on the bearer’s shoulders—no, I can’t say that they mean nothing, but what have we really felt? My trials seem so small: I can’t or won’t find a job (or the motivation to seek one conscientiously), my dear loving husband and I have disagreed, or we’re separated briefly by extenuating circumstances. Yet God uses even these minor bumps in life’s comfortable flow to remind me and the million of people who live like me that He is there. Trials of health—for cancer kills people in America as surely as it does people in third-world countries—or relationship or other trouble all are God’s way of bringing ourselves closer to Himself. Perhaps it’s a refining process in which the dross of a Christian’s humanity is slowly removed to leave only the person God wants us to be, a person close to His heart who seeks His way and follows it diligently.
But we’re so easily discouraged (I’m feeling lazy and hopeless about finding a “useful” job this summer, nearly ready to settle for just teaching summer school) that the trials God allows us to experience become, rather than a means of drawing closer to Him, a reason for pushing away from Him: “God allowed this awful thing to happen. He must not love me,” or “He isn’t there because He didn’t stop this pain from hurting me.” It’s sad that this desire to live the “good life”—you could read that “easy life”—lets us slip into thinking we’re entitled to live without trouble, so that when that inevitable trouble enters our lives instead of accepting it with humility we fight against it and against the God who allowed it to happen, sometimes trying to act as God ourselves to rid ourselves of that trouble or sometimes demanding God remove it for us. It’s easy for me to say now, on this cool, promising summer day in which I know nothing will be demanded of me, that trouble is God’s training of us; but it’s true that when we’ve lived through those harder times it turns out that God has used them to move us towards that “perfect and complete” person who is “lacking in nothing.” And who wouldn’t want to be that kind of person, even if it means living through trouble to achieve that perfection?
– KF –