If words are to enter men’s minds and bear fruit, they must be the right words shaped cunningly to pass men’s defenses and explode silently and effectually within their minds.” J.B. Phillips, British Bible translator and author of “Your God Is Too Small”
What comes to your mind when you think of, “Having it all?” It is an important question for Christians to think about because what we regard as “having it all” impacts the choices we make and our sense of well-being. There was a time when I believed that “to have it all” meant having enough money to purchase whatever I wanted to possess and wielding enough power to be able to do whatever I wanted to do. I married . . . we traveled . . . we had children . . . we bought our first home . . . we sought to fill our home with beautiful things . . . . I “had it all” but was never satisfied. I felt guilty and ungrateful because I was bored with the predictability of life. I wondered, “Is this all there is?”
Little did I realize how powerfully God was going to answer my question with thirteen well-placed words from Scripture that would rock my world forever. A letter written by James the Just (his letter appropriately titled James in the Bible) was mentioned one morning in a Bible study I attended as “a worthwhile New Testament book full of wisdom.” Curious, I decided to check James out when I returned home. It began predictably enough: “James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes scattered among the nations: Greetings.” It is what came next that caught me totally off-guard, bypassing defenses and assumptions I did not know I had. James wrote, “CONSIDER IT PURE JOY, MY BROTHERS, WHENEVER YOU FACE TRIALS OF MANY KINDS . . . “ Honestly, finding the words “pure joy” in any sort of sentence relationship with “trials of many kinds” confused and terrified me. I felt my heart begin to race, I slammed my Bible shut and remember thinking, “I’m not ready for that!”
Thankfully, God was exceedingly patient with me. I continued to grow spiritually as I sought to apply what I was learning in my Bible study. (No mention of James taunted me.) About a year later I was confined to a hospital bed to delay the birth of our third child until he was big enough to survive. I was about two weeks into what ended up being a two and a half month adventure. Missing my little girls and unsure about the future of the little one I carried, I remembered James. Without hesitation, I grabbed my Bible from the rolling nightstand next to my bed. This time I opened to James with purpose rather than just curiosity; I was looking for the wisdom and perspective I lacked. Again I read, “Consider it pure joy my brothers whenever you face trials of many kinds . . . .” I was surprised to find that reading those words this time did not frighten me. Instead, being in the midst of trial, I found comfort.
I read on expectantly, ” Consider it pure joy . . . because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (verses 3 & 4) I leaned back on my pillow as I reflected on what I had just read. It was a “lightbulb” moment for me, as God’s answer to my question about “life” exploded “silently and effectually” within my mind! “Life” as I had experienced it in the past was not all there was! There was meaning and purpose to be discovered as I trusted in God’s ultimate purpose for my life in both the challenges and the joys. God’s goal for my life (wherever it led) was:
- For me to PERSEVERE in my faith in order to grow it.
- That I would become, “MATURE and COMPLETE” in my faith (Biblically referring to being made holy, conformed to the image of Christ.)