Consider it a great joy, my brothers, whenever you experience various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. But endurance must do its complete work, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing. James 1:2-4
At a ladies’ retreat where I was speaking recently, one sweet person had prayed for all the women who were attending by name, then specifically and personally chose a different Bible verse for each one of us and wrote it on the back of our name tags. I learned this just minutes before I was to get up and speak, so I looked at mine.
I’m not gonna lie, seeing James 1:2-4 threw me off a bit. I mean, I wasn’t going through any type of trial at the time, so my first thought was “Oh, GREAT. What terrible thing is about to happen in my life?” I didn’t even have my cell phone on me to check on my family and friends. Why couldn’t I have gotten a cooler verse, like that one about mounting up with wings like an eagle? Or the one about Peter’s sermon at Pentecost in Acts 2:41 – “So those who accepted his message were baptized, and that day about 3,000 people were added to them.” I bet that’s a really good verse to get you going when you’re about to speak from God’s Word to a group of people.
It’s sort of ironic, right? The message of James 1:2-4 is to be joyful about facing trials, but just the thought that someone felt led to give me a verse about trials had me a tiny bit worried.
Let’s face it; none of us look forward to trials. Challenges, maybe. But trials? No thanks. And so I think we might miss the key to these verses because we have trouble getting past the first 12 words.
I find hindsight helpful.
Next month Clay and I will celebrate our 24th wedding anniversary. We have a great marriage, but we’ve gotten where we are through some pretty rotten stuff. If I had known at 21 the struggles we would have to face together, I’m not sure I would have said “I do.” But here’s the more important thing – looking back, knowing what I know now at almost 45 years of age, I’d do it again in a heartbeat. I think he’d say the exact same thing. Not because we’d enjoy going through the rotten stuff again, but because we know the result of it all. We are where we are because, by God’s grace and power, we endured the trials. Those tests helped make our marriage what it is now. I’m not gonna say our marriage is perfect, but it’s a whole lot closer than it was when we first got started.
Come to think of it, all the best marriages I know of got there through trials. Maybe that’s one reason the Bible uses marriage so often as an illustration for relationship with Christ.
So coming to terms with James 1:2-4 requires a shift in perspective.
God is far more interested in making us holy than He is in making us comfortable. He allows trials to test our faith because the trials grow us. The thing is, if we don’t adopt that same perspective, where the pursuit of holiness trumps the ease of trouble-free living, then we’ll never understand those first 12 words.
I didn’t need another verse that day. Turns out, the ones I got are pretty great. We’re going to have trials in life; there’s no avoiding them. But, in Christ, that’s not the end of the story. We can stay positive no matter what we face, because at the end of endurance, we find ourselves a lot closer to complete than we were when we first got started.