We are focusing on James 1 recently and pondering the challenge to “consider” trials joyfully. Hmmm. Why? Trials produce perseverance, the ability to endure, to carry on when times are tough, to see the task to its completion. Besides which, James encourages, wisdom is freely available from God who gives generously BUT we must believe and not doubt. Seasons of doubt feel like being tossed around in a wave. Ocean swimmers can remember that feeling of being knocked topsy-turvy by a wave. Next James compares trials to wealth and poverty. Trials push us into the focus of others and give us an opportunity for our faith to shine like a wild flower. In any case, the trial does not come from God who does not play games like that with us but is rooted in our desires. Nor does God give and then grab back. I can certainly think of losses that I have blamed God for, losses that have challenged my faith to its core. Loss of boyfriends as a youth, loss of jobs, loss of friends all have challenged me. So the next verse, James 1:15, helps me focus, “He chose to give us birth through the word of truth that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.”
I first note that trials are a kind of birthing process. As I walk through the trial, I morph in the process. One image used in the Bible is purifying gold. The dross is eliminated and the pure remains. My values are clarified unless I become bogged down in bitterness and self pity. I am not the flakey person I was as a young adult, ready to conquer the world and find true love and meaning. I have learned a lot and pondered a lot. If we were to put our young self next to our present self, not in a mirror that only records the world’s values, but in our mind’s eye, I suspect we could all see growth and maturity.
I note though that God uses the “word of truth” to purify us. It has been a hard lesson I am still learning that bitterness about events only eats at me inside and forgiveness and leaving justice to God is a better route. Love hurts but love covers a multitude of sins. As I sit in the airport and see the funniest looking people walking with their funny looking friends or loving their funny looking kids, I know this is true. And perhaps God’s love sees through all my critical filters and is able to love me! More and more I realize the gift of the word of truth to navigating the fabric of my life.
I’m not too sure what James means by “firstfruits” but I know that in the Old Testament sacrificial system, people were to give the first things that came up in the garden to the Lord. That first tomato promises meals to follow. That first flower brightens the barrenness of winter or the dryness of the summer heat. We are a firstfruit. Is God as proud of us as we are of our gardens? Amazing.
Of all the words I want to sink into my heart today, is the word “chose.” God chose to give us birth, to give us the word of truth, to prioritize us as his firstfruits. He chose you and me. He didn’t have to run the universe as he does. We have many super hero stories of god-like beings that do it differently. But our God chooses to reveal himself in our trials that teach and form us as he walks with us daily. Thank you Lord. Blessings.

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