The subject of this blog post today may turn you off or may seem odd to you. This subject (as indicated by the title of this post) will seem counter-intuitive to many readers. Some may object that I should not be writing about such a subject. However, as someone who has served as a pastor who has had the privilege and opportunity to hear the complaints and honest struggles of people, I am quite confident that we need to be reminded of God’s perspective on our lives, and that is what I am writing about today.
Sometimes I am the recipient of harsh criticism. I am not complaining about that; I am simply naming it. There is a difference between acknowledging what one is experiencing and protesting what one is experiencing. Sometimes that difference is a very fine line. I am not engaging in self-pity simply because I am acknowledging that I am experiencing pain nor am I trying to elicit pity from others by naming it.
If I say that I am experiencing a trial, that does not necessarily mean that I am protesting or complaining. However, that is often what others perceive me to be saying. Honestly, that is often how I perceive others who talk about struggles they are having: it seems that when they are talking about struggles, they are not simply naming them, but complaining about them.
So, what is God’s perspective on trials? There are many passages in Scripture that give us God’s perspective on trials, but the one that really grabs my attention comes from James. It grabs my attention because it comes near the very beginning of his epistle. The only thing that precedes it is this:
1 James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ,
To the twelve tribes scattered among the nations:
The very next words that he writes are these:
2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
Wait a minute! Once James identifies himself and the people to whom he is writing, he immediately talks about the value of trials?! Wow! No small talk? No mention of what he himself has been doing? No flowery words about his hopes and wishes for the people to whom he is writing? He gets right to the point, doesn’t he? He doesn’t even say, “I am so sorry that you are facing challenges and difficulties.” He doesn’t even say, “Life is so unfair; you deserve better than what you are facing.” Nor does he begin by saying, “I am praying that God will remove the difficulties that you are facing” or “I am praying that God will make life easier for you.”
Instead, James has the audacity to tell the people to whom he is writing to reframe the way they are thinking about their difficulties. He calls them to consider their difficulties as a reason for joy. He then explains why they should consider their trials a reason for joy.
Are there any difficulties in your life that are testing your faith in God? Are there any inconveniences or interruptions or stresses or conflicts or troubles or challenges or pain or threats to your well-being? Reframe them as pure joy!
Thank you, James. And to think that Martin Luther considered what you wrote to be an “epistle of straw.”
Let us be in prayer for our persecuted brothers and sisters in Christ who are facing torture and death in other parts of the world.
Questions? Comments? Please post them to this blog site.
Grace Upon Grace,