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)
Just in case anyone thinks this verse is not written to them as a believer, the footnote in the New International Version says: “James 1:2 The Greek word for brothers and sisters (adelphoi) refers here to believers, both men and women, as part of God’s family.”
Nowhere in the Bible does it say that Christians will not suffer. In fact, it is something we should expect and for which we should be prepared. Please don’t misunderstand me – I’m not saying we should walk around in fear, waiting for something bad to happen. But I am saying we should not bury our heads in the sand, thinking because we are Christians, all the trials and tribulations of this life will pass us by. No, in fact the above Scripture tells us just the opposite. We will face trials and we should consider it joy.
In The Message, these verses are even more specific: “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.”
“He’s kidding, right? I am to consider trials a gift?” Surely the author of The Message, Eugene Peterson, totally messed up that interpretation. But when we receive a gift, isn’t it usually a time of joy, such as Christmas or birthday?
“My faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors.” Ouch. Now he’s getting too personal. Yet, how many times in my life have I gone through a trial, kicking and screaming all the way? How many times, rather than standing in faith, have I stomped my feet and pitched a fit, like a two year old who can’t have her way? Instead of letting my faith “do the talking” how often have I questioned, “Why me?” “Why us?” More times than I care to admit.
So what do I need to do about these past trials where I’ve failed so miserably to “consider it a sheer gift?” I repent, asking for God’s forgiveness. And if my kicking and screaming and stomping my feet affected others around me (and don’t think it didn’t), I ask for their forgiveness also.
Then I must make sure that I am prepared for the next trials. And that’s not a typo – trials. Because there will always be more than one. Here’s how I prepare:
Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. (Ephesians 6:13-18) (emphasis mine)
As Christians, none of us can control what trials come our way, or when they come. But we can react with joy, “considering it to be a gift.”
“Abba Father, thank you for the gift of trials and for the faith and perseverance those trials produce. Help me to always have on my armor and be prepared when trials come my way. Thank you, Father. Amen