It was a jolt to my system, the day I started to read James for the first time:
“Consider it pure joy my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds . . . . “
I say “started to read”, because I was so shocked and frightened by James’s instruction that, for months, I avoided going anywhere near his letter when I opened my Bible. Looking back I can see where it was God’s mercy, giving me space before facing a life or death challenge that would change my perspective forever.
After that first encounter with James, life was going exceedingly well. In fact, we were surprised and thrilled to announce to the world that we were expecting a third child that fall. All appeared to be well until, at 25 weeks gestation, we faced the possibility of losing our son. During those early weeks of being hospitalized, I went back to James–convicted that I needed to hear him out. Picking up where I had left off, I found that James’s wisdom provided the perspective I needed to help me spiritually regroup*:
“Consider it PURE JOY my brothers (and my sisters),
whenever you face TRIALS OF MANY KINDS,
because you know that the TESTING OF YOUR FAITH produces PERSEVERANCE.
Let PERSEVERANCE finish its work so that you may be
MATURE AND COMPLETE, not lacking anything.”
James 1:2-4 (Emphasis mine)
Where I had assumed that God was all about my happiness, I realized that He wanted much, much more:
A rich, full-bodied, mature faith that trusts in Him . . .
that, pure and simple, is God’s goal in allowing trials and uncertainty
to test and grow us.
All these years later, I have helped many a Client to spiritually regroup with the forthright wisdom of James. When God asks, “Will you trust me in this?” There is nothing that delights His heart more than when we say, “Yes Lord, I will trust You in this.”
In these uncertain times, I find myself returning to James often to spiritually regroup. That is why the opening prayer of a sermon I listened to recently got my attention:
“Lord . . . turn our whining into worship.”
Initially I caught myself smiling as I reflected, “Turn our whining into worship?” I remembered a childishly scrawled addition to a grocery list I found many years ago requesting, “kids whine”. It was referring to a favorite sparkling juice our children enjoyed during special meals when wine was served to the adults. Even now, the irony of the misspelling of “wine” to “whine” makes me chuckle!
But then it struck a much deeper cord in me . . . “Lord, turn our whining into worship.” I thought about;
- How easy it is to complain to God about our troubles, even shifting blame to Him for allowing the fruit of our choices to impact our lives.
- How easy it is to give way to fear, as the world blatantly denies Him.
- Even now, I catch myself (a supposed “mature Christian”) entering into a whining, “poor me” attitude when things to differently than I want them to.
To be clear, it is not whining when we seek help from God. In fact, He urges us to run to Him with our fears and whatever weighs heavy on our hearts:
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened,
and I will give you rest.”
However, the “rest” we are invited to enter, does not necessarily take us out of the battle. We ultimately discover rest for our souls when we choose to trust in Christ–whether our circumstances change or not. Such rest comes as we answer the question God asks each of us, “WILL YOU TRUST ME IN THIS?”
When faith says, “Yes Lord, I trust You no matter what . . . . ”
Guess what happens? We leave the realm of whiners and uncertainty
as we enter into a worship that reflects a maturing faith!
The Bible is full of wisdom to help us grow through difficulty. Recently I have found encouragement and direction from God’s instruction given to Solomon at the dedication of the Temple. It is helpful and relevant to you and I today as we pray:
“If My people, who are called by My name, will humble themselves and pray
and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways,
then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin
and will heal their land.”
II Chronicles 7:14
Yes, we live in uncertain times
where it is easy to give way to fear or to be run by anger.
But such times offer us a myriad of opportunities to
spiritually regroup and deepen our faith,
as we trust in Him with humble, glad hearts.
All to His Glory!
*To spiritually regroup refers to those times when we are convicted that our emotions are running us rather than our faith in Christ. We spiritually regroup when we confess our fears, anger, bitterness, pride, etc, as sin against God. We spiritually regroup when we choose to trust Him to work out His Perfect Plan for our ultimate good and His Glory.