Am I the only one that feels this way, or have you noticed, too? THESE ARE HARD TIMES! Not exactly a positive way to introduce a blog, but sometimes I just have to write what’s heavy on my heart.
It seems like nearly every day I’m receiving phone calls or texts with disheartening news. One of our precious single mothers passed away last month from cancer, leaving a sixteen-year-old daughter. Others are sharing heartbreaks from COVID, distressed feelings concerning work, or young adult children making poor choices. And THEN…you turn on the news: food shortages, the border crisis, climate change. Sometimes it’s just too much to handle. Amen?
But we’re not the only generation who has faced such distress. In AD 65, God plopped a man down on this earth named James. And like you as a single mom feeling responsible for your family amidst the chaos, he, too, was responsible for a community unraveling. His life was no easy street by any means, but the spirit of God moved him to pen God’s secret to rising above circumstances beyond our control.
I must admit that over the years I’ve struggled to fully grasp what James meant when he said to consider it all joy when you encounter various trials. That almost makes him seem out of his mind. Perhaps it’s even turned us off when he’s suggested to consider it a sheer gift when tests and challenges come from all sides. Surely there’s more to that seemingly abrasive instruction than the way it makes us feel at first. And indeed, there is.
I’ve dug deep in this passage to discover what “joy” there is in a single mom passing away or a disheartened mom hurting over her child. The word joy, however, doesn’t mean happiness or to not experience pain or grief or to struggle with an unending flow of tears.
Rather, it indicates there’s a mentality or perspective to consider that reigns outside ourselves, a realm where God desires to reframe our thoughts about trials from his perspective.
I don’t know about you, but every serious trial I’ve experienced has revealed my confidence level in God or exposed the authenticity of my faith—or lack thereof. In a strange kind of way, God has shown me there is joy in discovering an inner strength given by him in the midst of heartaches, a power from on high that rolls into God-granted endurance and perseverance. The pain of my trials has forced me over and over again to ask God not for relief but “wisdom,” whose Greek word actually means “skill in handling it.” Maybe you, too, have needed God’s insight in dealing with the problem rather than emotionally spinning out of control.
The trial of my divorce was anything but joyful. To this day it’s still a tender spot in my heart, an event almost thirty-five years ago that I still need skill in handling the after affects. But this I’m learning. Trials are the epicenter of what God is doing in our lives. The circumstance we want removed is the very thing God has chosen to use to press us into him.
Friend, my heart is with you today in the difficult trials you’re facing. It’s hard. It hurts. But James says don’t give up! Don’t shortchange the process. Allow the trial to do its work in you. I’m cheering you on. There’s reward ahead.