As I continue to meditate on Hope in Suffering, I decided I should memorize James 1:2-4. “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may become mature and complete, not lacking anything.” So I have considered that my growth in this area of “the testing [my] faith” lags, despite some practice with physical pain. I admit to quibbling with the Lord about the percentage of joy I want to assume. “Pure joy,” like the total unaffected state of the daisy in my meadow? Sometimes in my prayers I remind the Lord that Job lived in a category all his own! Let’s face it. God boasted to Satan: “Have you seen my servant Job?”
When I meditate on a verse, I find it helps to let the Scriptures be their own commentary. So, like Bear Creek which flows near our home, I let my thoughts meander about the purpose of trials. James tells me that suffering and struggles come to test my faith, for the purpose of developing perseverance. Some translations offer “produces perseverance.” That verb sounds much more completed than I act, so I prefer the idea of developing. I continue as a work in progress, one that, thankfully, God does not give up on, even when I don’t cooperate. However, God does not plan for me to wander along forever. James goes on to say that “Perseverance must finish its work.” In all honesty, I have mentally argued about the must in that phrase. None of us naturally enjoys trials. Think about it. When someone hauls off to hit you in the face, do you lean into the punch?
Then it dawns on me that I’ve been looking “under the sun,” as Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes. Only when I submit to the character building exercise God has in mind for my sanctification will I learn to consider the joy of each trial. Oh, I don’t get it right off the bat! It takes time, tumult and sometimes tears. But now I try to ask what I can learn through the rough day, the unexpected turn of events, the uninvited griefs and pains. I search for the joy inside the trial. Thankfully, the Lord teaches with patience and mercy. He knows I have clay feet, but He loves me anyway.