Really?

Really? Just being honest here. If I had control of the “trials knob” in my life, I’d turn it all the way down to zero, turn off the breaker and rip the knob out of the wall. I wouldn’t even spackle the hole. I’d leave it there just for spite. Then there’s guys like Peter, who when the Lord said on the night of His trial, “All ye shall be offended because of Me this night,” Peter declared, “Although all shall be offended, yet will not I,” to which the Lord essentially said, “Really?” (See Mark 14.)

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds… (James 1:2, ESV)

Peter was the kind of guy who, if he had control of the trials knob in his life, would turn it all the way up, jam the breaker switch on and then rip the knob off. We are creatures of extremes who do not know our own limits. That makes us dangerous.

God brings us trials to remind us of our dependency on Him. Even the amount of trials we endure must be measured by His hand because either we’d refuse them all and stunt our growth, or we’d take on more than we could bear and self-destruct. It’s a funny thing, though. We need faith to endure trials and we need trials to build enduring faith. Is it any wonder then that James, under the leading of the Holy Spirit, is inspired to give us instructions on how to handle trials? He even tells us what our response should be. When trials come, “count it all joy” (James 1:2). Really? That is not a natural response. Our natural response is to avoid trials. James admonishes us to let them come, but then sometimes we misinterpret his intent. We read this passage and we think we’re supposed to rejoice in the trial. Why would you want to rejoice over a broken arm or some tragic loss? God is not admonishing us to rejoice in the trial. He’s admonishing us to rejoice in what will come of it. James’ admonition continues into verse three where he tells us that the “testing of [our] faith produces steadfastness” (ESV). James says we should know this to be true in the sense of “realizing,” or “being confident of.” When Christ went to the cross, we are told He despised the shame but was focused on the joy that would come (Hebrews 12:2). So, James says we should face trials with the joy of what is to come of them, not necessarily in the trial itself.

Next, he tells us to be patient: “And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect [mature] and complete, lacking in nothing” (1:4, ESV). Really? Growth is going to come out of our trials, but that growth is not instantaneous. Have you ever gone by a beautiful garden and thought: “I wish I had a garden like that!” If you go by that garden often enough, you might occasionally see and say hello to the gardener and in conversations with him or her come to realize that a beautiful garden is a beautifully kept garden. They don’t get that way by themselves. Someone has to prune and to weed and to fertilize that garden. It takes a lot of effort, endurance. Have you ever noticed the quiet strength of a mature believer? That didn’t happen instantly either.

Finally, James anticipates our next question: “How?” “I’m supposed to rejoice in what’s to come and patiently endure the process? Really? How?” By God’s grace and wisdom.

“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God” (1:5). Anticipating our possible hesitation at this, he reminds us that God “gives generously to all without reproach.” God wants us to come to Him with our troubles and He wants to give us of His wisdom, but that kind of wisdom only works if our heart is humble. Before we’ll ask of God, we have to come to terms with the fact that we lack wisdom and that God is the only One with the right answers. You ever notice, though, that even when we have the faith to come to God, we lack the faith to accept the answer? We come to Him with options, hoping He’ll bless one of them. It’s why James adds: “but let him ask in faith, with no doubting” (1:6, ESV). It’s like as we’re sitting in God’s waiting room, He’s posted “No Doubting,” and “Thank you for not doubting” signs all over the place. Why? Because doubting causes instability (v. 6, ESV). God cannot give something as precious as His wisdom to someone who is not stable. “That person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord” (v. 7, ESV) because if he’s of two minds while he’s seeking the Lord, he’ll be of two minds in everything else. Following God through a trial requires singularity of focus on Him, even if the answer doesn’t seem to make human sense. If we want God to grow us through our trials, we have to stop asking: “Really?”

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Photo by Johann Siemens on Unsplash

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