Be Still Know
James 1:3 NLT
For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow.
There is a shadow side to the Christian life. It is an aspect that at times we conspire to keep hidden in the shadows. I speak of what James in his letter simply describes as ‘trials’ or in some translations, ‘troubles’. My response can be to groan at the thought of such tribulations, then to complain that it’s just not fair and often to rebel against these trials, even threatening to ditch God if they don’t disappear.
Not exactly a mature attitude, yet one that I’ve frequently adopted in the past. Yet, to no avail. We can, of course, as many did in the early years of the Church’s history, go seeking trials for their own sake as a means of proving our loyalty and faithfulness to the gospel call. However, this is arrogance and as St Paul reminds us even, ‘…if I hand over my body so that I may boast…I gain nothing’ (1 Corinthians 13:3, NRSV). Trials are those seasons that we each will encounter ordered by God to deepen and mature our faith.
It sounds harsh, yet God has a commitment to equipping us for ruling through eternity with him, and chooses these seasons out of love for us. When we consider the love of a parent from the child’s perspective, it can seem unfair and feel painful. However, without such parental discipline the child is ill-suited to play their constructive role in adult society. All of our life experiences, however bitter, are able to become a source of growth and life.
James asks us to embrace trials with joy (James 1:2), a word that originally meant rejoice, itself one aspect of worship. James is not alone in speaking of joy in suffering. Paul, Peter and the writer to the Hebrews all draw our attention to it. It takes courage and a heart willing to surrender to Jesus, a heart which, like softened wax, is willing to allow Christ’s own life to be imprinted upon it.
QUESTION: How do you deal with trials? Are you able to take hold of them and use them to go deeper with God?
PRAYER: Lord, help me to approach the tests and trials with the confidence that you are with me.