“Consider it all joy, my brothers and sisters, when you fall into various trials, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Allow perseverance to finish its work, so that you may become mature and complete, not lacking in anything.” ~James 1:2-4
I hate the fact that James is right. But he is. And frankly, I hesitate to say it for fear God may “reward” me by sending me new trials (“But, God, I just wanted to tell them, not show them!”) Still, my heart knows that spiritual growth is best stimulated by testing. And, no, this is not some pretzel twist of religious logic, it’s hard reality.
Listerine brand mouthwash used to feature the tagline, “The taste you hate—twice a day.” No one loves trials, but committed Jesus followers know that trials are necessary. Just as bodybuilders know that muscles must be pushed to stimulate growth. Just as artists know that making art is accompanied by the exquisite pangs of birth. Dorothy Parker once said, “I hate writing, I love having written.” (I actually love writing, but there are times when I completely agree with this classic Dorothyism.)
C.H. Parkhurst, reflecting on the young shepherd David (future king of Israel) fending off a lion, said, “One would not think that a lion was a special blessing from God, one would think that only an occasion of alarm. (But) the lion was God’s opportunity in disguise. Every difficulty that presents itself to us, if we receive it in the right way, is God’s opportunity. Every temptation that comes is God’s opportunity.”
The converse is true, too. Trials rejected harden us and make us brittle. Exodus 9:12 says God “hardened Pharaoh’s heart.” How? By sending him trials that would have caused another to bend, deepen and mature. But in his pride, Pharaoh refused to bend. Instead, he stiffened himself, and broke.
So, thank you, God, for the opportunity to be more like You. Grumble, grumble. It’s just that, if you’d ever been human you’d realize… Oh, wait, you have. That’s what the season we’re about to enter commemorates. So, I stand corrected.
Or rather, I will.
I may never learn to love trials, but I will persevere because I know that I’ll eventually be grateful for the maturity and wholeness they’ve produced. And so, even now, on the grumbliest day of the year (Black Friday)…
I’ll consider it all joy.