“My fellow believers, when it seems as though you are facing nothing but difficulties see it as an invaluable opportunity to experience the greatest joy that you can! For you know that when your faith is tested it stirs up power within you to endure all things. And then as your endurance grows even stronger it will release perfection into every part of your being until there is nothing missing and nothing lacking.” [James 1:2-4]
To give you some context – James is encouraging early Jewish Christians who were likely living on the outskirts of Palestine. In other words, they were believers that were setting the pace in their community. There wouldn’t have been a lot of followers of Jesus in their community. This audience would have been coming up against a culture that didn’t accept Christians at all. James is writing to encourage them to let their joy be determined by the Lord and not by their circumstances. Hard circumstances aren’t supposed to be fun – but because God is redemptive by nature, we can have hope in our suffering. God is not asking us to enjoy the things that are hard. He’s asking us to change our perspective.
GOD IS REDEMPTIVE BY NATURE.
At first, that kind of seems like an unrealistic request to me. It doesn’t logically make sense to get joy out of suffering. But that’s just it – James is challenging us to change the way we look at joy. Experiencing joy is about where we get our joy from. It makes sense that if circumstances are the source of your joy, that your joy would change as your circumstances change. But if your relationship with the Lord is the source of your joy, then it makes sense that your joy would be constant, because He is so constant.
This verse reminds me of the song “New Wine” by Hillsong. “In the crushing, in the pressing, You are making new wine. In the soil, I now surrender. You are breaking new ground. So I yield to You and to Your careful hand. When I trust You I don't need to understand” (if you haven’t heard the song, check it out). If we approach everything we experience as an opportunity for growth, we can walk through our lives knowing that God can and will use trials to grow our character. I don’t know about you guys, but I don’t want to look back in twenty years and realize I’m the same person then as I am now, just like I wouldn’t want to be the same now as I was in 6th grade. Sometimes growing isn’t easy, it’s like growing pains. You can count on God to make something good out of everything.
God, help me to understand and see what your perspective is in the things that are hard right now. Show me what your heart is towards me, and redeem the things that need redeeming. Thank you for being a God who is kind and steady. Help me to learn more about you! Amen.