What is your Relationship to Trials?1
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 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. James 1:2-4.
As my little boy grows, I have noticed his attitude towards pain and inconveniences. His attitude is a simple one: he doesn’t like it. He doesn’t like having his nails cut. He doesn’t like having to stop playing to go to sleep. He especially doesn’t like being told he can’t touch something, regardless of whether it’s the hot oven or mommy’s coffee. And I know he doesn’t like going through any of these experiences because of how he reacts when they occur. His emotions betray him. Although he endures these situations, he is not happy or thankful for them.
While none of these experiences can be equated to what we adults would call a trial, it is true however that we can also suffer from the same lack of perspective. Like him, we are tempted to have a very narrow view, one that is clouded by any pain that we are experiencing.
James here is interested in calling these believers to have their emotions in-line with the truths they know. As a matter of the will, he wants believers to consider it all joy when they experience all kinds of trials. He wants believers to make trial-time thankfulness time. He wants believers to capture their thought-life and make it subject to truth; and that truth is; this trial is a test of my faith, and a test of my faith will produce steadfastness, and steadfastness will make me perfect and complete. So, praise be to God! Note that James is not saying that we should be weird macho people who enjoy going through hardship. Rather, like Paul in 1 Thess 4:13-14, he wants us to have perspective amid our trials. And that perspective – understanding what trials achieve – should produce joy in us.
I am yet to meet a true believer in the Lord Jesus who does not want to be made perfect. We all yearn for perfection; we all yearn to defeat the impurities in our characters. We have prayed a thousand times that the Holy Spirit would cleanse us from certain sins. Because we are those people, we must then be thankful when God answers our prayers for perfection by giving us the means that will produce this perfection: trials.
And James tells us exactly how trials produce perfection. First, they are a testing of our faith. How many people have you known to make shipwreck of their faith because life was hard? In all those cases, there were varying tests of whether someone still considered God good and supremely worthy of worship and obedience. In all of life, that question keeps coming up. Here is a problem in your life; do you still want to worship God? Here is another challenge; why not leave God and get what you want another way? If you stand firm in the face of these questions, you will be steadfast. And it is in continuing in steadfastness that makes you mature and more like Christ.
I’ll be the first to admit that when hardships occur in my life, it is hard to keep perspective. But Christians are those who are called by God to not just be hearers of his word, but doers. So, what would it look like in your life today to rejoice amid your trials? How can you return thanks to God even if life is especially hard right now? How can you convince your heart that God knows what he is doing in your life? Consider these questions with friends or family today and pray that the Lord would help you as you seek to honour Him.