Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything (James 1: 2-4).
It sounds impossible, or at least inappropriate. In the midst of suffering, James tells us to ‘rejoice’, to give thanks, to worship. Do we thank God for the suffering? No. Do we thank God that the suffering is making us a better person? No, I don’t think so.
Instead, in the middle of things–I think it means–we turn to God and thank and worship him for who he is.
He hasn’t stopped being kind, reliable, powerful, purposeful, true. Despite our personal eclipse, the sun still shines. That exercise shapes us in good ways and helps put us on top of our troubles rather than them being on top of us.
Best of all about this verse for me is the phrase ‘of many kinds’. James is telling us how to process trouble and sorrow of every kind whether it’s the small frustration of missing the post with a birthday card or the unhealed pain of a loved one lost.
(Originally written for a series of Lent devotions whose title I have forgotten)
With seasons changing so obviously outside, here’s a good question: does the soul have seasons? I dug out some notes from my friend Susan Sutton who is much better read in this stuff than me.
|Spring||Clearing, cleaning, ploughing, planting
|Summer||Maintaining. Things are flowing. You know who you are. Not hurried or worried. Life is good
|Autumn/Fall||Harvesting. Busy, fruitful lots to show for your work
These can reflect stages in our whole life.
But they can also guide us through loss. A sudden loss of health or a loved one may be like a storm that batters us and takes us in a single day from a harvest season into a bitter winter; but spring returns.
Here’s how prayer works. The overflow from God’s heart spills over into our hearts. The overflow of our hearts pours into his. We are entangled together, God and us, like two quantum particles. What stirs one, stirs the other.
When many people are moved to pray, some great wave of desire is stirring in God’s heart and flowing into many of us.
Or alternatively, something mighty maybe stirring in many hearts and slopping over to God’s heart.
Back and forth the waves flow.
When two or three agree together in prayer it will be done for them. Why? because the act of tuning your hearts so that they resonate together before God necessarily tunes them together into God’s own frequencies.
This has practical uses.
So much of prayer, surely, is scrambling around trying to find out what to believe in for today. Where in the buffeting of desire or longing or fear is the place we can anchor our souls for the day? Tomorrow is another day. But today’s calm place is what resonates with God today and where he wants to lead us today.