Pure Joy?

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.  Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.  If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.  But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.  That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does. (James 1:2-8)

Pure joy?  That’s a tall order in light of some of the real-world difficulties that we face in life, isn’t it?  Still, I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be thought of by God as a “double-minded woman, unstable in all she does.”  I believe that we all desire stability in our lives.  I think it’s easy, however, to fall into the trap of believing that stability is an external thing ~ that peace and rest and calm continuity come only when our lives are void of any upset.  We long for that imaginary world of If Only.  If Only that driver hadn’t cut me off; If Only I could get a better job; If Only I had more money; If Only… fill in the blank ~ we all have them.

Think about it.  If God had a Facebook page, how many ‘likes’ do you think He’d get after posting the above verses?  How many would ‘unfriend’ him?  “Test ME?!!  I don’t think so!  Delete!”  Seriously, we all will face the inevitable difficulties in life; there is no escaping that reality.  Too often, however, in the midst of our trials we fall into the trap of judging God’s motives.  Life is good = God is good and He loves me.  Life is bad = God is not good or He is angry with me.

The question remains for each of us: Will I simply react to the struggles I am facing or will I respond realistically?  The proper question to ask in the midst of our pain is not, “Why me?”, but “Why not me?”  I think the key lies in humility. Humility removes the assumption that somehow we should be above trouble.  Humility tells us that if we stand, it is only by grace.  Humility tells God, “Whatever it takes to make me useful to your kingdom ~ I’m willing.”  We need to allow Him to take whatever measures are necessary to bring about the righteousness that He desires in us.  This is as true in those minor irritations we face on a daily basis as it is in the major trials of life.  In fact, I believe it is in the minor difficulties that we have the opportunity to exercise our faith and learn to trust.  Those who are faithful in the everyday are much more likely to be found standing firm in the powerful gales that life has to offer.

We need to remember that the act of our salvation is the greatest sign of God’s love and care for us.  All else pivots on that one great act; all sorrows, trouble, and hardships beyond that point ~ and God’s peace that accompanies them ~ are simply confirmations of His continuing faithfulness.

To rejoice in our trials, then, requires our humble submission to God’s often-mysterious plan.  We rest not in what we see, but in the God who sees all; the God who works every situation out for the good of those who trust in Him.  We rejoice in the belief that our Heavenly Father has a plan and a purpose for everything that comes our way  ~ both good and bad.

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