Y’all this is already kicking me in the tush.
I spent a couple of hours reading and studying. Then I decided to record a video because it was easier to speak than write. 🙂
Then I heard a whisper: Dana this is a writing challenge.
James is the writer of the Book of James and it’s written to “the brethren,” which he calls the twelve tribes scattered among the nations. But a particular letter recipient is not mentioned.
Brother James wastes no time as he jumps in with a challenge. He suggests, to the hearers or readers of his letter, to consider trials as joy. I may be alone in hearing the sound of rubber tires spinning on dry asphalt. But one translation even categorizes this joy as “pure joy…whenever you face trials of many kinds.” (James 1:2 NIV)
The fact that he introduces the topic with a humble “consider it” helps my antsy heart hold still to hear Brother James out. But my first thoughts about trials don’t settle at joy.
I think about a courtroom with a judge sitting in a black robe. I think about the challenges in my life that seemed, at the time, insurmountable, all-consuming, down-right life altering.
In all honesty, I thank God for seeing me through it. But my initial reaction is not joy. I am certain of it.
It’s probably more like relief. Yeah…that’s it.
Gratitude and relief.
So, when Brother James says “consider,” I’m not onboard but I’m not running. I have an open mind, but I’m not adverse to giving him a side eye.
I’m just saying.
“Consider” seems like a gentle approach to a harsh reality. But it’s the word joy that keeps me glued to my seat, because who doesn’t want to experience a little more joy in her life.
Heck, I’d raise two hands and ask for a double portion should the spotlight turn in my direction. Therefore, Brother James’ one-two punch has me standing on wobbly legs, but I’m not ready to tap out.
Then he says “knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.” (James 1:3 NASB) I learned this knowing is tied to “a Jewish idiom for sexual intercourse between a man and woman,” an intimacy that draws very few parallels. (See more here.) And Brother James asks the reader to compare that intimacy to our perception of trials.
In my mind, he’s saying, “You know this truth because you’ve lived this truth. Every trial you’ve encountered has tested your faith, and each test produced an outcome you know well…endurance.”
If we are on this side of the trial, we have endured. We may have fell short of expectations. We may have stumbled. We may have soared like an eagle. Regardless, of how we did it, we are on this side. And on this side, we can take heed of a lesson or two by looking back.
Trials test your faith, and this testing produces a new version of yourself. “Produces” points out that our trials accomplish a particular result. It changes our situation from sadness, discouragement, uncertainty and invokes the knowing Brother James calls “pure joy.”
Strong’s Concordance stated this for “endurance” in the Greek:
“…in the NT (New Testament) the characteristic of a man who is not swerved from his deliberate purpose and his loyalty to faith and piety by even the greatest trials and sufferings.” (Read it for yourself.)
I’ll restate this for our consideration. Trials create in us an unwavering woman who knows intimately that a test isn’t meant to take her out. But it is calling her into an intimate space with God to remain focus on her purpose, to rely on what she believes, and to revere God even in the midst of her trials and suffering.
I’m from a church where the saints aren’t afraid to shout when the Word gets good to them. When you feel the truth wiggle past your defenses, your insecurities, your setbacks, and settle in the place where God’s truth dwells in your heart.
This is why Brother James says, CONSIDER IT JOY!
That the testing of your faith made you steadfast.
That the testing of your faith made you unrelenting.
That the testing of your faith made you chase after God, knowing the test was never meant to take you out but to perfect your faith.
This is when Brother James tells the reader, “let endurance have its perfect result.” (James 1:4 NASB) The trial won’t end when we want. But it’s necessary for endurance to run its course so that what you believe and what you do are the same. That who you are and how you live your life honors God. And as this test comes to a close, you will find that you lack nothing.
Ain’t that something.
Trials and suffering make you perfect. It ushers us into an intimacy with God and ourselves, pushing out our shortcomings, leaving a better version of ourselves.
But Dana, what if I “failed” the last test? What if this place of intimacy feels unreal in the midst of your current situation?
Ask God for wisdom.
Ask God for guidance.
Ask God for counsel.
Brother James tells us to ask and He’ll do it. He’ll give it to us generously. (James 1:5 NASB)
Now it makes sense why he would consider such situations as JOY. That you and I can experience hardships and have access to the Creator of all things when we find ourselves in a challenge. That when we’ve lost our way, all we have to do is ask God for wisdom.
Help to endure.
Help to preserve.
Help with our trials.
And what I love most—because we have more reading and studying to go—is it merely says ASK.
What trials are you experiencing in your life? Where in your life is God calling you to seek HIS wisdom? Have you found a way to see them as “pure joy” as Brother James suggests? Why or why not?
I’m moving to tomorrow’s reading. I didn’t anticipate recording a video AND writing such a long post but once I started it flowed. 🙂 I pray it finds you well and you’ll join me again.