Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds,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.
There is no question that we live in a world in which problems and disappointments abound. They are plentiful on every side, so that such is part and parcel of life. What I am referring to includes doing one’s best to cover the bases and do well, and yet still running into trouble, perhaps worse off than if one had not made the effort at all.
Of course we can batter ourselves and be battered. The enemy can have a heyday in beating us down, so that we join in. But even through that, good can come.
What James tells us to do is simply to consider it nothing but joy when we face the inevitable trials of life. Why? Because they can be places in which God works character in us, in ways which otherwise may not happen. Or we can say that in the inevitable bad that comes, good can just as surely come out of that. God is at work, and we are called to hang in there so that the needed shaping may come.
I notice in myself tendencies when trials come that are not helpful at all. Perhaps experiential aspects are inevitable, but our response is a different matter. I was thinking this morning of Martin Luther’s lines in his great hymn, “A Mighty Fortress is Our God.”
And though this world, with devils filled,
should threaten to undo us,
We will not fear, for God hath willed
His truth to triumph through us:
The Prince of Darkness grim,
we tremble not for him;
His rage we can endure,
for lo, his doom is sure,
One little word shall fell him.
We are told to endure, or remain under the trial in such a way that endurance (or perseverance) may finish its work, so that we may be mature and complete, lacking nothing. While that is God’s work, we are involved in it as well in the sense that we are to remain under it, instead of bailing out, or trying to solve the matter ourselves. In fact to say that we’re to let endurance finish its work suggests that we are closely involved to the point that we might even consider it our work, even thought it is essentially God’s work. We are very much involved; our participation is required.
We are to look beyond the trial itself to the good which not only may come out of it, but indeed will, if we only follow through. To consider it nothing but joy is an attitude we must take on in the face of what may be a blatant contradiction to such an attitude. It is not easy, no doubt. What happens from it is every bit as significant in degree as the difficulty which was faced.
If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.
And we’re not left there. James tells us to ask God for the wisdom we lack in the midst of the trial. To a God who is generous and does not find fault. We’re to be committed to the truth that God will not only shape us through the trial, but will bring us through it as well. Anything less than that in our attitude is to be double-minded, unstable in all we do.
Yes, this life in God through Christ and by the Spirit requires faith. A faith that trusts God for good, all the way around, in every way imaginable, even when the trial itself is not good. This is an aspect of faith I need to grow in. Something I would like to see definite, marked improvement in, over the coming year.