A while back, I wrote this post. It was about what had been going on in our lives. Things are dramatically different now, and we can see God’s faithfulness at work over the last few months. It was not easy, going from where we were to there nor was it easy going from there to where we are now.
In the midst of all that, I read through the book of James. When I came back to study the book again for this read-along, I found that I had marked up so many of the verses from chapter one during that time. I don’t know that it’s fair to call what happened a series of “trials” in this sense, because the Jerusalem church had it far, far worse than we’ve ever had it in our lives, but the words intended for them are surely also applicable to believers today and were a comfort to me then. I listened to David Platt’s sermon on this portion of Scripture to get another perspective as well, and it has hit me all over again that what we went through, though not a result of God’s hand because it was the sin of people and God does not cause people to sin, was still God’s doing because He allowed it to happen. What a thought, that the worst we go through is God’s doing because He, in complete sovereignty with the ability to control and change EVERYTHING, allows it!
The obvious question I asked myself often last spring was, WHY? Why is God allowing this? And while I can see the good it did in our church and the fruit that it has produced in lives around us, I’m more challenged to discover what God’s allowance has done in my life. Have I grown at all as a result?
James 1:2 Consider it a great joy, my brothers, whenever you experience various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.
Last spring was not a great joy. It was hard, and I still think back on it and feel a deep sense of dread and heartache. Our stress levels were through the roof, and it was difficult to even think about anything else. I would not have characterized the situation as one of “great joy.”
However, I can think back and distinctly remember how, in the worst of it, we trusted completely in God’s Word and felt the empowering presence of Christ, going before us and standing for His church. And there was joy in that. We knew we weren’t guaranteed anything and that it could end badly for us, but we knew that Christ was still on His throne, able to redeem His church at any time He so desired, and there was joy in that. There was even joy in knowing that this was not beyond His will, resting in the assurance that trials continued on because He allowed it for a greater purpose. Like James says, “the testing of your faith produces endurance.” And while I know that God had much greater purposes for His glory in mind in all of this, I like to think that part of His plan in allowing this was so that my faith would grow and I would have joy in Christ and joy in knowing that He has granted us greater endurance.
Endurance is something we’ve come to know well these last nine months (another benefit of the conflict was the genesis of the marathon training so that Wes’s blood pressure wouldn’t kill him, lol), and we know that it is anything but a joy when you’re building up to true endurance. It’s hard work going from barely-running-a-mile to regularly running twenty-three miles a week. But once you’re there? You can see how far you’ve come, and you know that the testing was worth it all.
And, so, even a short while later in this season, we can look back. And while we don’t wish another trial on ourselves anytime soon (unless You will it, God, and we’ll trust You!), we can honestly “consider it a great joy” because He has gone before us, and the testing has produced endurance in Him.