This is one of those posts where I’m telling myself what I know to be true and what I need to hear. Just flat out preaching to my own heart with the hopes that I can stir up my faith. Because, truthfully, I am so weary. I’m shocked and disappointed by people on all sides and in all kinds of ways. Even disappointed in myself. This world seems out of control crazy and the consistency of lose has ripped stone after stone from the walls that protected my soul until I find myself in a place off sadness that I haven’t felt in a very long time. If ever.
The question that I ask myself is, “Why? Which difficulties of life, or prideful, suspicious and hateful acts of man shock you?”
I know life is hard. I know humans are sinful. I know nothing is promised to me and our comfort is always something that is out of the ordinary. I also know that my grandparents faced many more struggles than I have including the death of a child, chronic illness, a flu epidemic that was worse than COVID, two world wars and an economic collapse to name a few. Yet, I remember them as being so strong. Physically, mentally and spiritually strong. Not only that, I remember their smiles and their laughter. The joy they found in simple pleasures. The hope that God is, ultimately, the victor. Truthfully, maybe I should be more shocked by the lack of faith, love and joy in the lives of Christ’s followers than I am at the struggles we face.
I’ve been asking for deliverance a lot lately and asking God how I can let go of this worry so I can live in greater faith and joy. True to his goodness, he has allowed the tears, the fear, the doubt and ALL THE WORDS – without condemning my weakness. He’s covered me with comfort at times and left me to struggle at others. And then, like he always does, after patiently listening and allowing me to vent all my feelings, he pointed me to truth. Truth that I didn’t necessarily want to see or hear. But my heart knows it’s true.
James 1:2-4 Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.
The amplified version says, “Consider it nothing but joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you fall into various trials.” I sure feel like I’ve “fallen into various trials.” Don’t you? The last 12 months have been full of all kinds of various trials that seemed to just happen to us. Not due to anything we’ve done, but just because we live in this world. Yet, James says to consider it a gift. Count it as joy. Really? How?
And I remembered my grandparents again. And my parents.
I was looking at old pictures with my mom the other night as she told me stories of her grandparents her parents, her uncles and even her and my dad. Things they experienced and walked through that I never knew about. Horrible things. Things that changed them. And I suddenly saw a beautiful picture of this passage.
A few of them were changed by the difficulties in negative ways. They became depressed, angry, hateful, bitter or afraid as they aged. But most of them allowed those difficulties to change them in positive ways and to grow their faith. To differentiate what was tradition and what was true. They struggled and cried and prayed to the other side of the trials until their faith was mature and well-developed. Like the Amplified Bible says, it led them to inner peace. I remember seeing that peace in how they lived, how they related to people, how they handled disappointments and in how they died.
I would prefer that God change the things in my life that we’ve fallen into but, in the long run, I want what he is showing me. I want steadfast faith. Perfect peace. A certainty that my life and purpose is wrapped up in him and not in the ever-changing power struggles of this world.
So, self…count it all joy. Face these various trials knowing that God is greater and that this world is not the ultimate home for your soul.
The next few verses in James say to ask God for wisdom when we need help navigating circumstances and to have faith that he will lead.
So, self…ask and trust that God gives generously and without blame. He won’t leave you hanging without direction.
A few verses later, James mentions those people who are tossed around by every wave and wind. James 1:8 “Their loyalty is divided between God and the world, and they are unstable in everything they do.”
So, self…search long and hard to see who you are loyal to. God and his everlasting kingdom or the kingdoms of this world that give you a false sense of security. Your security is in the light and life of Jesus. There will always be sin, injustice, poverty, hatred, division, pride, fear, war and uncertainty. The question is, will you simply curse the darkness or will you become a light?
So, self…don’t just endure this time. Defy it by being the light of the world as Jesus was. Walk like Jesus walked. Love, especially those who hate you. Forgive those who hurt you. Speak truth but don’t hate. Stand against lies with power and strength that is under control. Trust that God sees and cares. Focus on him and discard the things that distract you.
Self… Never forget that your heart goes where your eyes look so stay focused. Don’t despair. Don’t give in. Don’t give up. And don’t settle for what the world says is righteousness and peace. God will use it all for His glory and you will know pure joy.
“You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thought are fixed on you!” Isaiah 26:3