I don’t want to write this post right now. But in God’s providence, here I am. You see, yesterday I decided what today’s writing topic would be — I opened a document, wrote the title, and copied and pasted James 1:2-4 (which I will get to in a minute). As you know (by the title of the post), the lovely topic at hand is trials.
…Well, things have changed since I sat so casually at my computer last night. Between then and now I have been jolted into a new trial. Nothing horrendous, just one of those typical “health scares” that goes with having young children. But due to a variety of circumstances, it feels like a legitimate trial. And let me tell you, these lovely things, called trials, are a lot easier to write about when you are not in the middle of them! I suppose, I could back out and change my second “November Resolve,” but if I did, I would have to admit that I don’t plan to do the very thing I was going to encourage others to do. And that, of course, is not an option.
So why would we thank God for trials? Well, I don’t think we would if we were not directed to. Who wants to deal with problems, or pain, or worry, or sadness? No one does! But, God’s word tells us to embrace our trials with joy.
James 1:2 says,
“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds”
In my experience, joy in trials isn’t an automatic and natural reaction. Clearly, the verse isn’t saying we need to be cheering and celebrating each new difficulty. Yet it does mean we need to “welcome” them in a sense. More than that, we are called to consider it ALL joy, meaning we should be wholly joyful (not just “kinda” joyful). How it this even possible? The next verses give us the reason.
James 1:3-4 says,
“for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”
We can embrace a trial because we know it has a purpose. I guess it’s a little like saying, “Enjoy those push-ups because you are going to get strong!” The push-ups are still going to be painful, but you can endure them, and even “welcome” them because they will be worth it. There can even be a bit of joy in the pain as you focus on the result. Admittedly the pain that messes with your life, not just with your muscles, is infinitely worse. However, the principle still applies. Though the pain may be much greater, the purpose and reward are much greater!
When difficulty arises, we are working out the muscles that really matter — our spiritual muscles. As we endure, we become spiritually stronger, more mature, and more able to successfully navigate through life in a way that is pleasing to God. In physical fitness language, we become spiritually fit! Can you imagine how eagerly we would participate in exercise if we were guaranteed our physical perfection would be “lacking in nothing?!” The pain would be worth the gain! We must remind ourselves before a trial arises, and then again as we see a trial on the horizon, and then again while enduring the trial – that we are in the process of working out our spiritual muscles, and the pain will be worth the gain.
One commentary noted, “Christians can face trials with joy because there are rich advantages from these testings. Trials, rightly taken, produce the sterling quality of endurance.” Trials, then, are a gift that offers “rich advantages” we would not otherwise have. That is why we can thank God for trials.
On a month in which we are more prone to say thank you to God, we should add to that list the one thing we are least likely to thank God for. Trials are never fun, and some are much harder than others… But they are the “weights” that God wants you to lift. The heavier they are, the more potential for growth, strength and maturity. In eternity, the difficulties and pain will be mere blips on the timeline, but the spiritual good that came from them will last forever. So with this mindset and perspective, let us resolve to even be thankful for trials.