Oh, the blessings that come only through the endurance of trials…
I don’t know if it was coincidence or God-incidence that my fog lifted the day I got back into God’s word. It didn’t happen after asking God for relief, because I was so self-absorbed that it didn’t occur to me to pray about it. It was almost like it was a wonderful consequence of obedience, of time spent with God, because my bible study had started back up. This Spring session, I have the privilege of leading the women whom I’ve sat along side of for the past few studies. I am so honored that I was asked, and I hope that I serve those precious women in humility.
We are studying the book of James, and other than learning oodles and gobs of stuff I never knew (I love it when that happens!!!), I am seeing firsthand how God can most certainly replace anguish with joy. We are called by James in chapter 1 verse 2 to “consider it all joy” when we encounter “trials of various kinds”. This doesn’t mean slap on a smile and call yourself Martyr. We are told to CONSIDER it joy. There are lots of different definitions of the word “consider”, but the one that pops into my mind first is “think carefully about”. In the midst of a problem, does it really help to be solely focused on the problem itself? Isn’t it much more beneficial to maybe identify the cause in order to focus on the solution? Or meditate on what can be learned from the current predicament that can be used for good in the future?
Another great thing about this passage is that James goes on to tell us why we should do this thing that feels so very foreign to us, this rejoicing during hardships. Verse 3 says, “because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.”
And why should we care about perseverance? Verse 4 says, “Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
As for me, I know that one of my goals in life is to mature. Physical maturing inevitably happens to us all, but seriously, is there any more off-putting a quality in an adult than the Peter Pan Syndrome? Someone who acts their shoe size rather than their age?
I have never felt “old” enough to see myself as a mentor. Yes, I have been married a long while and I am the mother to two children, but I am still very much a child in my own mind and in the eyes of my parents. They are still alive and still dispensing much-needed advice. At least they were up until a couple of months ago. Since then, my life circumstances have been turned upside down. They are now such that my parents need care rather than providing it, and I find myself as the comforter rather than the one being comforted.
It certainly was a shock to my system, and I think for awhile, I didn’t know how to cope. It was as if I was called to mature overnight. I was no longer a child in the eyes of my parents; they were calling on me for help and advice. It wasn’t until I processed that and assumed my new role, that I began to see outside my very me-centered perspective. I began to recognize and respect the Circle of Life for what it is.
We are meant to grow and mature in this life. We are meant to live full lives, lives of completeness. Children don’t enter the world with the tools or the fortitude to see a project to completion. They must learn those life skills (among many others) as they grow up from adults who have gone before them. There is a point in everyone’s life where they cross the threshold from childhood to adulthood. From immaturity to maturity. From needing to giving.
And the way God does this growing-up of us is this thing called Life. It’s not easy and it’s not for the faint of heart, and I am soooo thankful we don’t have to go it alone. Even if we have no earthly mentors, He has provided all we need with the Holy Spirit who lives in us and His holy word. We don’t have to learn life skills from other “children”. There would be less learning and more trial-and-error in that scenario.
Instead of throwing a tantrum about how unfair life is (cuz that’s no real shocker to anyone, I’m sure), I am going to examine my trials and consider choosing joy instead of anguish. Even if my circumstances aren’t, my attitude is completely in my control, and I’m gonna choose what to do with it.
The only difference between a good day and a bad day is your attitude. ~ Dennis S. Brown