Blessed is the man (woman) who keeps on going when times are hard. After he (she) has come through them, he will receive a crown. The crown is life itself. God has promised it to those who love him.
James 1:12 (NIV)
Tuesday marks my first day meeting with a new small group for an in depth study of James, and I’ve got to tell you, it’s falling on a time in my life when I feel like I did when I was a little girl, always asking why.
Daddy, why is there so much suffering?
Why do we battle wars and illness and loneliness, poverty and addiction, attitudes, disease, divorce, death and darkness?
According to the instructions left by our brother, James, you and I are supposed to consider ourselves blessed to face such trials.
“Count it all joy when you fall into various trials.” (From James 1:2)
I don’t know about you, but my natural reaction when my my best friend’s husband left her and their 3 kids and a good friend of mine learned she had cancer wasn’t to immediately feel joy. Likewise, I didn’t consider either friend to be particularly blessed by their circumstances.
Broken maybe, but certainly not blessed.
A blessing (in my carnal mind) is something that doesn’t interrupt my happy place. Rather, it should add to it.
Trials, or as James calls it in verse 3, the testing of our faith, is something that most of us would rather try to avoid.
No one would willingly chose to fight cancer, bury a mate, or raise a child with a lifelong disability. Most of us would chose to pass those assignments by for a life of comfort, ease and prosperity. Jesus warned us that this was not the kind of life we would experience:
“I’ve told you all this so that trusting me, you will be unshakable and assured, deeply at peace. In this godless world you will continue to experience difficulties. But take heart! I’ve conquered the world.”
John 16:31-33 (MSG)
If you live on planet earth, trouble will come, even if we give our all to avoid it. Jesus encouraged us:
My husband and I purchased a diamond ring at an auction several years ago. The owner believed the ring was real and quite valuable, but a jeweler later determined that the ring was a fake. It was of no value, other than the testimony it allows us to use from time to time.
Imagine having reached the gates of heaven after enjoying a lifetime of prosperity while professing your adoration for God. You arrive, eagerly anticipating your crown of life for all of eternity, only to be told that your faith had never been proven, and in fact wasn’t genuine.
Faith is a journey that opens our eyes to the value of trusting God, especially when life is hard. That’s where the rubber meets the road and we prove who we are and what we believe. My friends are all proving their faith: a wife who continues to honor God and the husband who left her, and a friend who bravely faces cancer. Some of the most difficult times in life are in fact just pathways to discovering who we are, and who God is.
That’s just it. The testing of our faith produces something that’s real and lasting; fruit is produced in our lives, like peace, comfort, joy and happiness. They are the result of the Holy Spirits presence in our life as we patiently, joyously, and expectantly waiting on the Lord to see us through. Those who know Him, obey Him, and trust His Word know that the trials are temporary; the end result is victory; where a crown of life awaits us, for all of eternity.