How to think about God when life is rough

Life gets rough. How people respond is well known. “Why did God do this to me?” “How can God be good if he allows this to continue?” Adversity can foster many temptations. What role does God play in all of this?

James’ letter takes us straight to our questions about God. He does not answer every question we might pose. Rather he counsels us how to think about God when we are in the thick of it.

To set the stage, consider how James leads us toward reflecting upon our thoughts about God. His letter opens with a counterintuitive command to the harried life, “Consider it nothing but joy when you fall into all sorts of trials” (James 1:2). The first thing James wanted to impress upon our minds is the attitude we should adopt when adversity tests our faith.

Without pausing, he quickly leads us into considering how we might perceive ourselves in view of our economic status. Everyone faces temptations! The Christian in humble circumstances should not succumb to poverty’s temptations like jealousy, bitterness or covetousness. Rather, if we struggle financially we should focus upon our “high position” (James 1:9), likely a reference to having developed a rich faith (James 2:5).

Economics, however, do not just test the poor, they also assay the comfortable. If we are comfortable, we are tempted to view ourselves in light of all we possess. James commands us to deflate our inflated thinking by focusing not upon what we have, but rather upon our human frailty (James 1:10-11). Being mortal we are dependent upon God.

If we have been reading James not with an academic distance but rather empathizing with its content, he has us right where he wants. Does God tempt the rich with pride or the poor to be jealous? Is God causing our hearts to brim with those temptations we encounter in crises?

James knows us. When adversity with its accompanying temptations loom large, our minds gravitate toward asking: What role does God play in all of this?  James trains us to focus upon several truths (James 1:13,16,17,18):

  1. God does not tempt us, nor can God be tempted.
  2. Every good and perfect gift has come from our Creator.
  3. The Creator does not change. We can rely upon who God will be tomorrow.
  4. The Creator’s work in our lives gave us birth into becoming a kind of firstfruit of his creation.

Did you notice a common theme in this list? Every item exalts God and God’s work! In duress remember truth.

When we are tempted to doubt, disparage, demean or dismiss God because life is rough and the temptations are thick, James guides us toward esteeming God!  Remember who the Creator is and how he rescued us. In our prayers, praise should precede petition.

When we approach God praising him for who he is, what he has done as well as what he has promised, it sets us upon a spiritually healthy path. At first it may not always be easy. It is, however, transformative and spiritually centering.

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