A Troubled Life
James begins his letter to the Jewish believers with a strange bit of logic. Trouble in life leads to joy! What? The very thought of troubles doesn’t bring up thoughts of joy, but dread. So, what is James trying to teach us about living through difficult days?
Many times we can’t change our circumstances, and God has allowed us to enter this particular phase of our journey. Sometimes life is just full of trouble and God is letting it happen. So, there must be something in it that is going to lead us into transformation. The joy to be found isn’t in the pain, but in what the pain produces- having everything we need to thrive in Christ.
This kind of transformation comes from a very specific path. First, our faith is tested. we are challenged as to what we really believe. Is God really watching over us, or are we on our own? Second, Endurance develops during days of trouble. We grow in our ability to see beyond our circumstances to God’s dominion over the universe. Difficult days provide the opportunity to deepen our trust in God- to deepen our faith. Third, we learn to embrace these times. We gain endurance as we become less susceptible to diminished faith. This absolute trust in God, regardless of circumstances, produces a life that is complete- having everything we need to fulfill our purpose.
So, the joy we embrace in difficult days is to be found in the realization that we are going to end up transformed more into God’s likeness.
In this, there are a couple really significant temptations. 1) the temptation to define God’s blessing in financial terms. James reminds us that the believer who is poor is also blessed. Riches fade. God’s blessing is eternal for those who learn to remain faithful during difficult days. 2) The temptation to accuse God of inconsistent care. James reminds us that God isn’t tempting us- trying to trip us up. He doesn’t shift like a shadow. He gave us new birth and is aimed at helping us overcome sin. Our circumstances (good or bad) do not change his focus.
So, we must set our hearts enduring difficulties and embracing the transformation days like that bring. God is pouring out good and perfect gifts from heaven that will lead to an immovable faith. So, embrace the difficult day. Find joy in it because you are becoming complete!