(Note: For the next eight weeks I will teach on the Book of James at my Wednesday Women’s Bible study. Therefore, I thought I would share some of what I learn in this blog. James is a wonderful and practical Epistle, but it is often difficult reading—not because it is hard to understand, but because James tells it like he sees it! He wants our faith to move from being theoretical to mature and real).
“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)
Really? Is it possible to “consider it pure joy” when we face trials? Admittedly, this may not be the first thing you tell someone who is in a hard place. As I wrote last week, before Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, He wept, demonstrating His compassion for those hurting. But nonetheless, this is a Truth for followers of Christ. By the power of God’s Spirit we can consider any trial we face as joy. But the key to understanding how this is possible is in understanding the word, “consider.”
James is not saying that we are to feel happy when trials come. When we face disease, death, persecution or any spiritual trial, our natural reaction is not characterized by elation. Tears are consistent with our suffering. And yet, when we understand and believe that God has some purpose for the suffering, we can consider it joy. I read this illustration recently. If someone is colorblind he cannot know for himself that an evergreen is green. In time, however, he comes to believe those he trusts who say that an evergreen is green. He can “consider” it as green.
Similarly, we may not have the personal knowledge as to why or for what purpose God has allowed a trial in our life. But as we learn that He always fulfills His promises, we can trust that he does in fact have a purpose. Hence, we can “consider” the trial as joy, despite what we are feeling.
The wonderful news is that God is willing to give us what we need to endure the trial. He invites us simply to ask Him for wisdom in faith. His response is never, “Oh no, not her again!” Rather, He promises to give that wisdom “generously to all without reproach.” James 1:5. As we seek His wisdom we will mature in our faith, not only considering the trial joy, but actually experiencing the peace that surpasses all understanding in the midst of our pain.