June 10, 2014.
“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 in nothing.”
I have some trouble with this verse. Intellectually I get it. I understand what james is saying. I can see how trials would produce endurance and patience. I even understand how having nothing to hold on to except for Christ could deepen our relationship with Him. But when those trials come, how are we to endure? That’s the thought that comes to my mind. What’s more is that we should not only endure, but James says we should count it as joy. I don’t know how to do this very well. When trials come that I can’t fix, I tend to shut down. We read of the prophets in the Bible who were persecuted all their life and no one listened to, yet they continued on regardless. This, friends, is a great feat indeed.
Paul had his fair share of trials. What he went through might make what we go through seem trivial. He tells the Corinthian church:
“To my shame, I must say, we were too weak for that!But whatever anyone else dares to boast of—I am speaking as a fool—I also dare to boast of that. Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they offspring of Abraham? So am I. Are they servants of Christ? I am a better one—I am talking like a madman—with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death. Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to fall, and I am not indignant?”
(2 Corinthians 11:21-29)
How did Paul do it? I would quote the notable verse he pens to the Philippians in which he says he can do all things through Christ and risk the cliche. But I think there is a lot of truth in it. He could do all things through Christ. And we can too. But the problem is that we don’t let Him. I know this is my problem. I get down into a hole where I can see no way out and I don’t think anyone can help me. I shut down. I don’t know how to stop that. But it is my prayer that Christ pulls me out. But I do believe that I have to do my part. No relationship is one sided, and that includes our relationship with Christ.
So we must let Christ in. But how do we do that? I’m not sure I have the complete answer for that, but I do have some examples of how we should handle it I believe.
“And he came out and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives, and the disciples followed him. And when he came to the place, he said to them, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.” And he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, saying, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.”
As Jesus was facing his death on the cross, he prayed to his father. It says he was in agony, so much so that his sweat was like drops of blood. Not many of us face agony like this. But I don’t believe that means the agony we face is so much less important. I believe Jesus cares about our pain even when others think it is trivial. I believe that intellectually at least. I want to continue to believe it when I go through this pain. But no one promised an easy way. He just promised a glorious way.
Another way that I try to deal with agony and stress is to think about the life beyond. One day, one glorious day, all the trials and tribulations will be over. There will be no more need for tears and the things we went through in this life will seem as nothing. The struggle will be complete and we will enter into His rest. No matter how bad things get here, they won’t always be that way for those in His kingdom. On that day where every knee shall bow, we will be transported home to live in the presence of the Almighty forever. Hallelujah. This is how John describes it:
“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
So may it be! Amen! He shall wipe away every tear from our eyes. There will be no more pain, no crying, no mourning. It’s in your lowest times that you appreciate this truth, because in that moment you know pain, you know mourning, you know tears. The thought of them being now more is a burden lifted from your chest. We are on this earth for such a short period of time, but that period is riddled with suffering. But remember the opening verse. Through trials comes endurance. Let us press on towards the upward calling of Christ.
Last, but certainly not least, we are in a family for a reason. We should be here for each other when we go through our trials. We should help one another. We should love one another. That’s how the family should operate. Paul writes about this to the church in Galatia:
“Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”
I believe that God made us for a reason, and I believe a large part of his reasoning was about relationships. By this all men will know you are my disciples, that you love one another. Love bears all things, believes all things, endures all things. Let us love one another and help our brothers and sisters who are going through rough patches in their lives. For one day, we will go through a rough patch, and we will need someone to be there for us as well.
Suggested Daily Reading: I Kings 19, Luke 22, II Corinthians 11, Revelation 21.
Bear one another’s burdens.