This is not an article about how trials are good. This is not an article about how trials are all bad. This is an article of my thoughts on trials and tribulations. My thoughts include the REAL hurt in trials, the pain in trials and somehow the good that can come from trials.
I want to be real about the pain we all experience. I want to say how much it hurts, sucks the life out of you and how the inner pain is much worse than physical scars.
But I also want to be real about how God does help. I want to say what God can do in a trial, what His word says about trials and how trials grow and stretch us.
My most recent trial is my battle with anxiety and a bit of depression. This struggle was at its height about a year and a half ago, but still rears its ugly head in my life now and then. So, although the height of this struggle is in the past, I still deal with it. During this trial I thought and believed much of what I am going to talk about. I wish I had known these principles about trials then.
The author James wrote this epistle to Christians in order to prepare them for the problems they would face as they stood true to their faith. James gave many rules in this book for Christians to practice in order to grow in strength and wisdom of their faith. The very first thing James writes about are trials and how to respond to them. I do not know, but I venture to say that the Christians he is writing to were enduring struggles when they received this.
1. In James 1:2-4 it says:
“My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing”
Based on this text, as a Christian, we know that we will fall into trials. James says, “when you fall,” not, “if you fall”. We know they are coming! That means we can mentally and emotionally prepare for them! Often times it seems like trials fall on us like a ton of bricks plopping down from the clouds on a perfectly sunny day. Trust me, I know the feeling. My husband was recently laid off and I spent hours trying to determine how this could happen to us. Scripture says that trials will happen, so let’s be prepared together!
James also tells us to be joyful and to think joyfully when trials come upon us. When I read this I think, “Um, yeah right, you go be joyful when you ___________ (fill in with your trial).” I really don’t think that James meant for us to go around saying, “Oh I’m so joyful even though my mom just died,” or that he meant to say everything bad is a blessing, or to go around hopping and skipping and singing, Somewhere Over the Rainbow when you’ve just lost your job.
The focus of “count it all joy” comes in the next statement. When our faith is tested, it produces patience, which produces perfection and completion in our faith. Counting it as joy simply means knowing our faith will grow and our dependence on God will increase in order to become more like Jesus who is perfect and complete. That’s what is joyful. The trial itself — the pain, the loss — is not joyful, but the glory brought to God through our circumstances and the growth in our relationship with the LORD is what is joyful.
One night, a year and a half ago, I laid in bed crying once again not able to sleep, or to stop my mind from spinning in circles. I was crying for the millionth time, unable to stop. I remember calling out to God and simply saying, “I need you, please take this.” Shortly after that heartache-filled, tearful, hopeless prayer, the Lord responded by speaking love and assurance that He was right there with me. I can still remember the feeling of somehow knowing God was in that room with me and calming me so I could sleep. That memory I have with God is something I cherish and think of often. I could only have had that experience if I had been in that trial.
So, no, please don’t go around telling everyone that your oh-so-happy that your life is falling apart. But in the midst of the unbearable pain, remember that God says this trial will mold you into being more like Jesus.
2. In James 1:5-8 it says:
“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the LORD; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.”
Whoa. Seems quite blunt to me. In the midst of a trial there are so many emotions that surface. Guilt, confusion, belief that God is punishing you, doesn’t love you, or has abandoned you, fear and anger are all emotions felt during a trial. When we feel all these emotions, sometimes even at the same time, it is very difficult to have a mind of wisdom or to have any idea about what to do.
James instructs us, when the wisdom needed is lacking, to ask God for the wisdom. Asking God for wisdom isn’t always the easiest solution, and it doesn’t dismiss the problem. What it does is put the issue into the hands of the one who is above all. That is a place you can trust the problems we face. James is telling us to be in reliance upon God. Coming to God with problems is a place of safety. We know that God will not condemn us in our trial, but will be graceful.
However, James also instructs us not to doubt God’s ability to solve the problem or perfect the trial. Doubting God is an incredibly unstable place to be. When we doubt God our faith sinks. We begin to grasp for anything to hold, believing everything we hear or read about our issue. The thing is, when we doubt deeply that God is able, we begin to believe that only ourselves are able. This turns into a self-reliant mentality. We becomes double-minded because in our hearts we believe God, know God, act like we trust God. But deeper inside we believe ourselves to be the only solution to our problems; in its root, this is unbelief. James warns us about how unstable this is. He urges us to have faith in God; to believe deeply that He will provide.
I speak all this from experience. The emotions I faced were so real and intense I stopped believing in God’s ability to help me. I was tossed around on this emotional roller-coaster between knowing who God was, but deeply not believing He was strong enough to help. The waiting God required of me was too much for me to bear. This is why, I think, James speaks of patience. When going through a trial, seek God’s wisdom having the patience and faith to know it might take some time (maybe a lot of time) before the wisdom comes and the trial is relieved. The LORD did relieve my trial and has given me wisdom and renewed strength to combat the coming waves of anxiety and depression.
As a closing thought, I am grateful and thankful to have a God who shows concern, who catches our tears, and feels our pain when we struggle. No matter how angry you or I may get at God, always believe, even if a teeny bit, that God is still with you and still loves you.
*photo courtesy Britney @baretribe.blogspot.com