Handling adversity

His counsel seems counterintuitive. It certainly doesn’t represent our intuitive reaction. What’s more we might wonder, how can it be possible? “Consider it nothing but joy when you fall into all sorts of trials” (James 1:2). How can James write this? Did he know something that could help us in the current crisis?

To appreciate what James wrote, perhaps a short story can help. Imagine a few young elementary kids at home in the spring time. Maybe it is not too difficult to grasp the full weight of this home bound scenario.

A parent comes up with a plan to prevent everyone from going stir crazy while also achieving some valuable work. The children are told to take seeds from a packet. Each seed is to be pushed slightly into some loose soil along a straight line. They are also to separate their seeds about three inches apart.

One child soon complains that her fingernails are getting dirty. Another becomes upset that his brother is planting more seeds quicker than he is. And that brother is grumbling because the sun is so bright.

What happened? Each child became focused upon something other than the parent’s goal. If we were to ask them what matters, we would probably hear: keep my fingers clean, be as fast as others, or get away from the sun. Yet, being in the sun, getting their fingers dirty and planting seeds at whatever speed achieved the parents’ goal.

Now consider James’ explanation for the command, “Consider it nothing but joy when you fall into all sorts of trials” (James 1:2). It is because “you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect effect, so that you will be perfect and complete, not deficient in anything” (James 1:3-4).

When we encounter the adversity of trials what matters most to us? James had his eye on a larger prize than our current comfort. He gazed at a result that could reach into eternity, Christian maturity. Several sentences later he echoed these thoughts when he penned,

“Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him” (James 1:12). 

It is because of James’ outlook that he counsels those of us who wish to live wisely to consider it nothing but joy when we encounter various trials. Nobody likes the discomfort of adversity. This is not about feeling comfortable; this is everything about knowing what really matters in the long run and how trials can help us grow.

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