James 1:2-4 The Message
Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don't try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.
Sheer joy when you experience trials, struggles and hard challenges??
That's not my first thought when something rocks my world upside down.
I usually would want to scream, kick and holler "UNFAIR".
Other versions say consider it pure joy.
Am I missing something here??
You bet I am.
We face challenges throughout all our lives. Some are HUGE and some are quite miniscule.
The smaller ones are things like: I hope I can pass this test, I studied (or not).
I hope I can get this deadline done. I need to be in 3 places at once, how did this happen? I promised a friend I would meet them, and my child gets sick.
My appointment is running late and I have to pick the kids up at school.
These are things that we face daily. Often for me a challenge is what shall I make for dinner tonight.
To be honest, these type of daily happenings don't cause me sheer joy. More like aggravation.
But I'm told to consider it a sheer gift. OK, so now what do I do??
I learn to thank God for the inconveniences in life. WHAT? did you expect everyday to be perfect and run smoothly??
But what about the life alternating challenges:
Like finding out you have a life threatening illness like cancer?
When your child is arrested?
When you are told your job is being terminated?
When your spouse leaves you?
When you have lost a dear loved one way too soon?
When you don't have near enough money to pay the bills?
When your unemployment checks stop coming?
These are things that hit us like a ton of bricks and practically knock the wind out of us. When life is crashing down on you and you can't see or think clearly but are completely thrown off kilter.
Yet James tells us to consider these trials as sheer gifts.
Why? Because GOD HIMSELF is up to something in our lives.
And if you are like me, you want the easy way out.
"OK, so I will endure this, but LORD, just let it be over quickly."
Most often, it doesn't end quickly.
I remember (oh so vividly) the trial we had with our sons. I was shaken to the core and thought nothing could be worse. In actuality, God was beginning to prepare me for much worse. But I remember asking someone, "how long do you think this will last?"
He began his answer with "Probably about two...."
I was sure he was going to say months, instead he said "Probably about two years".
Are you kidding me? I can't do this for two years.
But I did. And it did take two years. Two very long years.
Two very long years I would not trade for the world. Because in those two years, I learned more of God's faithfulness, mercy, forgiveness to me than I had ever experienced. It was worth every agonizing minute.
Would I want to experience it again? Well no.
But I have experienced worse since then.
And I know that God has a perfect timetable for all we go thru.
We want the end result quickly; and in God's eyes, two years is probably very quick.
Its in those long days and nights, when we cry out to God and wonder if He even hears us, that He is working out His good and perfect will for us. He is making us mature and well-developed in all the ways that matter to Him.
So when life throws you the ultimate curve ball and your life is is completely side swiped, begin to think of it, as a sheer gift. One where if you start thanking God for, He will sustain you until this challenge passes.
Thank God for what He is doing right now. Thank Him for what He will be doing thru this, for what you can't see yet, but hindsight will show you later.
And whatever you do, don't be like me and try and get out of it prematurely. Let this trial, pain and struggle help transform you into the person Our LORD envisions you to be.
PS A tremendous book to me during some of my hardest times has been ,
"the Blessings of Brokenness" by Charles Stanley. I highly recommend it.