Did I just see a snowflake? Wait, what month is it? That’s right it’s the month of May! Butterflies and sunshine. Trees in full bloom and green grass to be mowed. Yeah, that’s the May I remember. This Spring has been very cloudy, and the temperatures have not been very warm. In times like this you could almost assume the sun did not exist anymore.
I remember a good friend telling me years ago that they have learned to enjoy the cold of winter, after years of complaining about it. I thought to myself that they were crazy, and I continued to hold a grudge against winter and all its undesirable personality traits.
It is no wonder God gives us many commands in His Word, as we come to experience challenges in life that we are so prone to do the opposite of His commands, by nature. Life is filled with opportunities to complain, get offended, and cast blame on others. Yet, what if we began to see things from another angle? What if we started to see trials as the Scriptures show them to be? The word trial carries with it the concept of “a test”. To put a trial in a more positive perspective, there is an opportunity presented in each trial we face as followers of Jesus. Let’s see what James, the brother of Jesus had to say regarding trials, of which I am sure that he endured as he grew up alongside his brother, “the perfect child:”
“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith without doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a doubleminded man, unstable in all his ways.” – James 1:2-8
Did you hear that phrase? God gives generously to all who ask for wisdom without reproach. The concept here is describing what it feels like to be made to feel as though you have lost your good standing with Him. I am sure we have all been in a situation where a superior has made us feel shame for not adding up to certain expectations. This presents us with a poor motivation and typically produces a performance driven mindset. When we embrace this mindset in response to the reproach that someone has laid on us, we are bound to fail again.
What a difference it makes when amid failure or simply imperfection, we receive affirmation for the progress we have made in the midst our struggles, rather than an emphasis placed on where we are struggling, with a “shape up or ship out” directive. God loves when we ask for wisdom, because he is not expecting us to have the wisdom within our self. How much more would we ask for this wisdom amid relational tension and the temptation to hold a grudge or exchanging words that cut away at the other person, if we embraced this truth that God does not reproach those who ask for wisdom? We truly live under a friendly sky, even when the sun is not shining.
It greatly helps us in our weakness as humans to know that God is always in a good mood and that He will give us “every good and perfect gift” during any testing or temptation. He is the “Father of lights,” James 1:17. He Himself does not change, yet He is always working for the change within us. As a Father, He has a family, and we have brothers and sisters. The ultimate trial that we face in this life is to rejoice always, give thanks in all circumstances, and to pray without ceasing. This is the will of God lived out in day-to-day exchange with other people. We need one another to be able to embrace this calling. Together we get to remember that behind the clouds and cold weather of the trials of this life, there is a bright smile stronger than the sun. Our Father in heaven is smiling on His children as they ask Him for wisdom in the confidence that He is cheering them on in their pursuit of the “crown of life which God has promised those who love Him”, as they “remain steadfast under trial and stand the test to the end,” James 1:12.
Together we stand in the Body of Christ. Let’s remember to be a people who encourage each other, knowing that in this world we will have tribulation, Jesus has overcome, and in His overcoming, so will we. When we are surrounded by trials of many kinds, may we look up to the God who delights in the journey with us.