2 My brothers and sisters, consider it nothing but joy when you fall into all sorts of trials, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance. 4 And let endurance have its perfect effect, so that you will be perfect and complete, not deficient in anything. James 1:2-4 (NET)
When I was about 13, I was part of Mid America Yearly Meeting’s Bible Quiz program, and we competed on our knowledge of the contents of James. Preparation included memorizing the book. Now that I’m 42, I find that James continues to be part of my life, especially the opening of the epistle.
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds”—words that come to mind whenever something goes badly. When I was a teenager, these words seemed ironic. Joy, as it’s used here, appeared to be a word for suffering. But over the years I’ve learned that James knew what he was talking about, and he meant what he said.
It’s just like the Beatitudes, where Jesus names one hard thing after another and says that those who experience these hard things are blessed. Yesterday, a church I’m involved in lost a member, and I am one of those who mourn: James says, “Consider it pure joy,” and simultaneously I hear Jesus say, “Blessed are those who mourn.”
It takes perspective to consider suffering as connected to joy, but hard experience really can build our faith. I look back on the events that have changed my life. They weren’t easy or fun. But I am changed, and I am blessed.
Hymn: It is well with my soul
Prayer suggestion: Ask God to help you see how the difficulties of the past have opened you to God’s blessings.
Note: this was published by Barclay Press in their “Fruit of the Vine” Fall 2018 devotional.