“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. (James 1:2-4)” Trials and testings! James is writing to followers, scattered around the known world who are for sure the minority, not only ethnically but also their worldview has been revolutionized by an encounter with Jesus and they no longer “fit in.” These days of political polarization, medical isolation, and social struggle certainly make it difficult to “belong” with any one group. Perhaps we can identify. James advises his scattered flock to “consider” trials as “joy.” As I ponder the word “consider” this morning, it seems to me we have a choice about our attitude as we face our day. Trials are not joy. Trials hurt but the attitude with which we face them makes a difference. Our text last Sunday about the woman crying for mercy and facing the common opinion that she was no more than a dog not worthy of bread, could have retreated in bitterness and anger but she chose to work the trial, ignoring the insult and asked for a crumb.
Next I note that trials and hard times are testing our faith. James does not ask the scattered followers to consider pain as joy, to deny reality that hard times are hard. That is just truth. But hard times often challenge us to quit and forget there is a God who cares and watches. I worked on a hotline counseling service in Hollywood as a young adult. People contemplating suicide called in all night. Under stress we get tunnel vision, focusing on the trial and forgetting our resources. If the counselor can help the person to open their thinking, to consider their options, often the trial becomes endurable. Because I feel so bad about myself and my inability to cope, I think others feel the same about me, and despair. It is at those times that often I pick up my Bible and open to just the right verse. Or maybe the phone rings and just the right person has called, or I call them. Or I turn on music and my mood changes.
Trials take time to resolve. Perseverance. We all want miracles and in our day of instant relief and answers for everything if we use the right cream, eat the right food, do the right exercise, it is easy to blame ourselves for our problems. If only I …. Miracles might happen because of prayer but perhaps the greater miracle is that I find the strength to persevere. I create space for God to work through his body thus growing the whole family of God.
“Not lacking anything” sounds a bit pie-in-the-sky but as I check my attitude, focus on faith, remember my resources and keep going when it’s tough, I develop spiritual muscles – I pray that will be a blessing to others. Blessings as you continue continuing in the trenches of life. Blessings!