Trials, challenges, hard times, suffering, grief - whatever it’s been for you recently, it's hard enough as it is. Combine that with trying to have the “right Christian attitude” about it, ugh.
It all makes me want to find a form of distraction or escapism rather than face what is unavoidable. The cliches that well intended loved ones share ("Everything happens for a reason!") often don’t help either. Today's passage might be familiar to you. James’ words here make him seem like one of those people that I want to roll my eyes at and proclaim he has no idea what I’m going through. But I believe that James isn't speaking in cliches here. He's speaking from experiencing deep suffering himself. And I believe Jesus wants these words to soak into our hearts this week.
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and 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. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER
What understanding and connection does James draw between trials and joy? What is joy how is it different from happiness?
What difference does our attitude/heart posture make when we’ve asked God for wisdom?
Why do you think James is talking about these two things in tandem like this?
How do you usually respond when facing trials of many, or any kinds? What’s your motive behind your response?
What do we expect from God when we’re in a trial? Do we expect Him to show up and be faithful or do we expect that we will only ever know suffering because of the trial that has encountered us?
James is looking back after decades of life and seeing the big picture here. Wisdom seems to be the key link to having perseverance in the trials he’s experienced or observed. But what even is wisdom?
According to dictionary, wisdom is “the quality of having experience, knowledge, and good judgement." I firmly don’t believe James is telling us to just smile and move on from our trials. I believe that he's charging us to hope for and trust in the joy that comes at the end of pressing through them. To pursue the healing that could come, the courage that could come, the strength that could come when we don’t allow the trials to define us, or overcome us. James knows that God is always able to redeem, restore, renew, revive, and heal us through any trial surrounding us.
I'm struck by James' illustration of the one who doubts: “The one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.” A wave has no will, no choice, it is completely defined by the circumstances around it. It is held in place to our world by gravity, unless temperature causes it to evaporate, or something like wind disrupts that hold of gravity. When a wave is blown and tossed by the wind it has no choice but to allow the circumstances around it to determine its path and place and movement in the world.
You, my friend, are not a wave. You are a child of God. Your circumstances are real and your feelings about them are relevant. James is inviting us to remember that in those moments of trial, you have a God who has designed you with a free will of choice, and wisdom; to choose to hope and trust that He is present when trials enter your life. God not only desires but commits to bring you through them.
What trial in your life right now (or in the past) is lacking the long-term perspective of what God could bring you to at the end of the journey?
Where have you not yet asked for wisdom? Do you believe that God is ready to give you wisdom now without finding fault? Go ask Him for it and be ready to receive.