Trials, difficulties, challenges, confrontations, IRS audits, economic meltdown, out of control kids, unemployment, persecution, etc., etc., etc. None of us are immune to the difficulties of life. And it oftentimes seems like being a Christian only makes things worse. How should I respond to the rocks that life throws at me?
James has something to say about this in his letter to Christian Jews scattered around the Roman world, who were also having rocks thrown at them. But his message to them, and to us, can be pretty hard to swallow.
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.James 1:2-4 NIV
Respond to trials with joy? Sounds crazy doesn’t it. That actually sounds like a response that should get us locked up in a padded cell as a masochist. But before you pass off James guidance as foolishness, take a closer look at what he is telling us.
Responding With Joy
How do I respond to trials? I could see in them the end of a dream, an overwhelming obstacle, or a painful experience. Or, as a Christ follower, I could choose to respond in faith. In faith, I believe that God cares about me, and that he is working to perfect me. In faith, I can choose to believe that God will take this trial and use it to draw me closer to him, making me more dependent on him, and further developing me as a disciple. Through faith, I can develop endurance, the ability to continue through the trial without being discouraged and giving up.
And at the end of endurance is maturity, becoming what I was created to be. The trials I go through are not fun, and nowhere am I called on to enjoy them. But they will be used by God in my development, if I respond in faith. And so, knowing what the trials can produce in my life, I can respond joyfully; not joy because of the trial, but joy in what they can produce in me.
Joyful in Trials
I run. I am not particularly fast, and will likely never win a race with many competitors. And, for me at least, running is not the funnest thing I do in a day. My legs get tired, I huff and puff, my feet get sore, I have to dodge cars, and it can be a real mental struggle to continue. So why do I continue; why run when watching TV is so much easier? Because of that these “trials” produce. In far better physical condition than most 68 year old men. I can mostly eat what I want without worry. I can go out on long distance hikes and enjoy the creation. And I just feel better. I take joy in what the trials of running produce in me.
James calls on me to do the same thing with the trials of life. Take joy in what the testing of your faith will accomplish. Take joy in your spiritual development and maturity. Dare to confound the world around you when you respond with a joyful attitude to the inevitable trials of life.
Updated on June 10, 2021