Life is tough. Everybody knows that. There is no way for us to get away from the troubles and difficulties that we all have to face. Sometimes, it’s little more than the inconveniences of traffic, dealing with an overbearing boss, or misplacing a wallet. Other times, it’s infinitely worse. Those are events in life that seem to define our lives from that point on: financial ruin, discovery of a malignant tumor or the sudden death of a loved one.
How do we deal with these life-altering challenges in life?
Well, put simply, we can despair. We can assume all is lost and crawl into the fetal position and give up…or we can hope. We can find out what God says about the subject in His Word and determine to trust Him. Obviously, some won’t and they will pursue their own coping techniques and they may experience some level of comfort, but for me, I trust in the God who is there; the God who brings life out of death. The God who I have seen give grace and strength in some of the most desperate of times.
Jesus’ half brother, James, who initially was not a believer in Christ but later became totally sold out to Him after He saw Jesus resurrected and eventually led the Church in Jerusalem, has some challenging instruction in the first chapter of his letter:
Count it all joy, my brothers,when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
First of all, he’s talking about joy, not happiness. Happiness is circumstantial whereas joy is not. I can maintain joy, for example, at the death of a loved one who has trusted in Christ and gets to experience life beyond death, though I am not happy about their absence from my life.
So, James is basically saying (according to the new, international Price version!), “Look, if you have trusted in Christ, keep the big picture in mind here. All sorts of difficulties are coming your way because of sin in the world. You can’t get around it. Yet, because of what my brother and Lord, Jesus, did on the cross, even the bad stuff is making you stronger and complete. You don’t have to like it, but embrace the glorious truth and grow through it!”
That, I can embrace. I can hold onto the truth that WHEN (not if) trials come. I may weep. I may struggle with the challenges. I may need people to hold me and to comfort me. However, I can know that God is good and He is in control. I can know that He will provide grace and strength through it. In short, I can stand!
What are some ways you have experienced God working through challenges to bring about good in your life?
If you would like to watch the related message from our current series, FaithWorks: Living the Letter of James, you can visit the video archive of The Gathering, Chattanooga. Also, check to see if the video has been posted on this blog.