I can’t think of too many people who would say that life is a piece of cake.
Even those who seem to have it all, who are happy, and who are spiritually grounded would tell you that life is not always easy; if someone were to tell you that their life was easy, I would consider the possibility that this person was not telling you the whole truth.
Every day we are faced with new trials and tribulations: finding or keeping a job, paying bills, worrying about a child, dealing with a medical condition… I am sure we could add more to this list than we would have room to print here.
Sometimes, the adversity that we face can become overwhelming. And, at times, because of this it can seem as if God has left us. In fact, there are people who come to a point in their lives where they believe that either God must be very angry with them or that there is no God.
This is an understandable reaction to someone’s hardship. If God is supposed to be good and wants only the best for His people then how can there be so much hardship in life?
The hardships we face become a test of our faith in God.
It’s hard for someone in a difficult situation to keep the faith that this might be part of God’s plan for their life, as well as the fact that God really is there looking out for them.
“How can God make things so hard for me?” some might ask.
If we look to the bible for some help in answering these questions, we can find in James 1:2-3 the following: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.”
Why are we supposed to consider it pure joy to face the trials we face in life?
James is speaking from his knowledge of how God works. Just as a parent tries to teach us lessons to help us cope with life in the future (lessons that we might rebel against because we don’t understand their purpose while we are being taught them), God tries to teach us the lessons He needs us to learn. And it won’t be until later that we might come to understand what God was trying to teach us and why.
When I was just out of high school I went to work for my father. He owned a construction company. That first summer he made me run a jackhammer cutting asphalt roads. There were some days that, due to the combination of the heat, the pounding my body was taking, and the noise, I though was never going to make it through the day. I hated every minute of running that jackhammer. I wondered “how could a father treat his son this way?” I just didn’t understand this. I could have quit but instead I stuck it out and running a jackhammer that summer turned out to be one of the best things that my father did for me.
That summer taught me many lessons: how hard people who perform physical labor for a living have to work, that I wanted to chart a different course for my life, and to respect the man working next to me not for what he had or didn’t have but for the person he was inside.
What I realized that summer is that there is a lesson to be learned in everything – even if that lesson comes from suffering. In fact, a lesson that is learned through suffering is a lesson that is likely one of the most valuable lesson we can learn and one that will stay with us the longest.
We are all on a life-long journey of learning. Learning about ourselves and learning about God. The process of God teaching us is similar to when we were children and our parents pushed us. They pushed us to learn lessons that we would need to know to be successful in our journey in life. And now that we are older and have likely moved away from our parents and their direct influence, we have moved closer to God and have undertaken learning lessons from Him.
Reading further on in James we find, “Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.” James 1:4-5
What is the perseverance that James is talking about?
I would think that James is telling us that our trials and the tests we face teach us to not give up. It’s kind of like the old saying, “when the going gets tough, the tough get going.”
We must learn to “keep our nose to the grindstone” and be patient while we try to learn the lessons God is trying to teach us. If you begin to doubt your ability to persevere then pray and ask God to give you the direction and strength you need.
It is the faith in God and the knowledge that the difficult times only teach us lessons that bring us closer to God that will help us through those difficult times.
In the end “Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.” James 1:12