2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. 5 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. 6 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. 7 That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. 8 Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do. (James 1:2-8)
This has never been a favorite passage of mine, partly because it seems so counter-intuitive, even verging on denial. Consider it joy when I face trials? But what I noticed for the first time today, is the point about being complete. There seems to be a sequence here.
I start as incomplete, like a poorly thrown American football pass 😉 But there are a number of things that will move me towards completeness. This is the sequence:
Trials of Many Kinds
Testing of the Faith
Maturity and Completeness
Without this somewhat painful sequence, I will not reach maturity. I will be incomplete. There will be something lacking. As a pastor, I know first-hand the truth of this. Without having had pain in my own life, I would be seriously lacking in empathy for those who suffer. Henri Nouwen wrote of “The Wounded Healer” and of course we see that in Jesus, but also in ourselves.
One clear way in which God equips us is through our pain, or more specifically, through an experience of his presence in the midst of the pain. And that presence and pain can be transformed into something good, something that completes and matures us, and something that can be of real, tangible help to others.
3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. (2 Corinthians 1:3-4)
Amen and amen.
This passage in James continues with something that seems like a non-sequitur – a request for wisdom. Why do we need wisdom in such circumstances? I think to understand God’s purposes in our trials, or even to trust that there is a purpose to it, that it is not just the random cruelty of the universe, but something that God is allowing, which he can bring good from.
I love the fact that this instruction comes with a promise, that if we ask for wisdom, God will give it to us. This is money in the bank, a guaranteed result. With prayer often seeming nebulous and uncertain, a “will he or won’t he” answer situation, this is a given, and I gladly take hold of it. A prayer for wisdom is one of my most frequent prayers, as I often seem to be in situations where my knowledge or experience is insufficient.
So, wherever you are at today, whatever trials you are facing, ask God for wisdom to understand it, wisdom to trust him in the midst of it, wisdom to know that he will use it for good.
If you know someone else who would benefit from these “almost” daily devotionals, please feel free to forward this to them. They can subscribe for themselves at http://glynnorman.com in the Subscribe box at the top right of the site and receive this daily at around 10am in their inBox. Thanks.