“My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials” – James 1:2
One of the hardest aspects about Scripture is that it so often contradicts human nature. Its principles and practises are sometimes tougher than cowhide to digest, and nothing other than the power of the Holy Spirit working in us will prevent us from choking on it. It is contrary to nature to desire pain; it is contrary to nature to desire trouble; it is contrary to nature to desire hardship; and it is contrary to nature to desire trials. Most times if any befall man, they are usually bemoaned with great wailing and woe. At best they are endured with gritted teeth and no more. Yet, James calls us to count it all joy, not just when we fall into a trial but into various trials! How can we possibly rejoice in such circumstances? From a human standpoint, we cannot. There is nothing in human nature or worldly understanding that could soundly assist us to count it all joy. It requires a heavenly presence and eternal vision, which the world does not have nor knows. For the true Christian it is different: Christ overcame the world (John 16:33); we have a High Priest in heaven, Jesus Christ, who intercedes for us (Hebrews 4:14-16; Romans 8:34); we have the indwelling Holy Spirit, the Comforter, who strengthens us and helps us (John 14:16-17); we have the Word of God to call upon to steady us and help us stand (Psalm 119:105); we know that our times are in God’s hands (Psalm 31:15); we are assured that all the paths of the LORD are mercy and truth, to such as keep His covenant and His testimonies (Psalm 25:10); we have the heavenly vision that draws us up from the temporal to the eternal (Philippians 3:14,20; Colossians 3:2); and we know, as James continues to tell us, that the testing of our faith produces patience (James 1:3). These are but a few of the enzymes that enable us not only to digest but also to draw nourishment from that which may seem to be considered “cowhide”.
Patience, the antithesis of human desire, but the archetype of godly spiritual wisdom. All we need do is look around us to understand that patience is never a desired human trait. It is frowned upon by society who cannot wait for anything, particularly when in a state of distress. But of what true value would it be to them, for if they are without faith, what profit will such trials produce, unless it leads them to salvation? Yet, for those who have faith, James recognises a deep value in the testing of that faith that bores its roots to the underground streams that never run dry. James calls us not only to count it all joy but also to submit to it, “let patience have its perfect work”. In essence, he is calling those who go through various trials to allow God the right to work in them. Why? James explains: “that you may be perfect (mature) and complete, lacking nothing”. What profoundness, what provision!
For the Christian, trials are not idle, they are purposeful. Although our hearts may be torn because of it, and although we may call out to God to end it, let patience have its perfect work. He knows when it is complete and has produced a perfect work. Is God sadistic that He should desire His righteous children to suffer pain without purpose or make them endure beyond what they can cope with? Know the heart of your God and Father! Know that in the midst of trials He has purpose. Look today to the morrow; look while in the temporal upon the eternal. It is not an escape from reality but an entrance into reality. It rubs a soothing balm upon the hurting heart; it comforts those who mourn, gives beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning and the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness. It sees Jesus, now seated at the right hand of God the Father, and takes courage with patient endurance and longing for God, who will one day wipe away every tear. Then there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things would have passed away, and behold, the LORD will make all things new. Suffering saint, yet dearly beloved, embrace your Heavenly Father and let Him wipe away your tears and heal your broken heart, but know with joy that the testing of your faith produces patience, the end of which is to make you mature and complete, lacking nothing.