You know what? This week’s verse is hard. I’ve been thinking it over all week, praying and asking God to reveal something of Himself to me in this verse, and yet it kind of sticks in my throat. Yes, it’s the season of joy and goodwill to all, but every time I switch on the news I see innocent people, innocent children, suffering in Aleppo. Every time I scroll through Facebook, there are stories of children suffering from terrible, incurable diseases. Surely, when we consider the following verse, James can’t be talking about those situations?
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.
James 1: 2-3
What is James really saying about joy?
So James (and it’s in the Bible, so therefore, God, wants me to consider it ‘pure joy’ when I face trials? That when my faith is tested, I should be joyful? That when I’m doubting and questioning, that’s wonderful?
That’s what I find hard.
That’s what I’m sure the people of Aleppo find hard: I’m sure they aren’t ‘joyful’ in their trials.
And yet joy, as I discussed in Week 1, is so much more than an emotion. Joy is a deep-rooted, spiritual sense. It is not the absence of suffering but the presence of Christ, according to Robert Schuller.
So I know that God has not forsaken Aleppo, although it may sometimes seem like it to us.
We face many trials
I also see the word ‘many’ in verse 2. Not ‘all’ trials, but ‘many’ trials. So yes, I do think James is saying that there may be some times when our faith is tested but we cannot be joyful about it. I imagine losing a child must be like that. But I also know that God knows what it feels like to lose a child. I know that He suffers with us, and weeps with us.
So in the trials we do face, how can we have joy?
Rachel wrote last week about Spiritual maturity, and I guess the same is true here. If we see our times of testing as times of potential growth, then that changes our perspective. Sometimes (in fact, quite often) we see this growth when we’re looking back on it, rather than looking forward.
I know that’s certainly true in my own life. Each moment that I can pin point in my own Spiritual journey when I’ve been questioning, or doubting, has eventually resulted in a greater understanding (and perhaps that process is even happening here, as I’m writing this post). I also know that when I’ve pushed myself to step out of my comfort zone and to serve in a new way, or to speak to someone about my faith, that has often resulted in growth in my own faith.
Surely growing in faith, and bringing others to faith, is what it’s all about?
A joy perspective
The word ‘Consider’ is an interesting verb. If we consider something, it means we think carefully about it. We might research it, or draw up pros and cons. It’s not an emotion-driven word. It’s a thought process, mind over matter, if you will. So it’s an attitude-shift, or a perspective-shift, like Mary had when she received word from the Angel Gabriel that she would give birth to the Messiah. We have to look for the joy in the testing.
The testing produces perseverance. When I think about this, I think about a muscle. When we want to get stronger, we lift weights. We build up those weights to get stronger.
I think the testing of our faith is similar. Perseverance, a mixture of both endurance and patience, suggests deep strength. Our faith gets stronger when it is tested. I think we’d all love to consider ourselves to have a ‘strong faith,’ but do we welcome the testing that results in the strong faith? We need to got through the refiner’s fire to become pure.
Finally, we find in 1 Corinthians 13:10 that God will not allow us to be tested beyond our power to remain firm. He will provide us with a way out. I find that incredibly encouraging.
So. Joy in the time of testing.
Here are the key things I’ve drawn out from this:
- Testing makes our faith stronger.
- We should try to have a joyful attitude to testing but that’s not always possible.
- God will never allow us to be tested beyond our power to remain firm.
But it’s hard. It’s about having a joy-perspective. That’s one way we develop Spiritual maturity. And for those situations where we cannot have joy? We pray. We give what we can – finances, time, possessions, knowledge. We raise awareness. And we hope.
Next week is our last Mummy Meditation on Joy, and we’re looking at this verse – highly appropriate for Christmas!
But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.” Luke 2:10-11