We all know that life is hard. Thank God, Jesus told us in this world we would have tribulation – great trials, hardship and suffering (John 16:33). He didn’t deceive us by letting us think otherwise. Both the Old and New Testament clearly give one account after another of the pain borne in this world.
Reeling with the covid pandemic, the entire world endured affliction and death. Loved ones died. Many of us suffered through the ordeal and yet lived. However, reflecting on the last four years, my personal journey involved more suffering during that period: five surgeries, three other hospitalizations, and worst of all, the death of our 2-year-old grandson Jack. God was gracious despite the excruciating pain. He carried the family through it all.
May God be glorified for providing what James (the half-brother of Jesus) wrote in his letter (chapter 1, verses 2-4). “Consider it wholly joyful, my brethren, whenever you are enveloped in or encounter trials of any sort or fall into various temptations. Be assured and understand that the trial and proving of your faith bring out endurance and steadfastness and patience. But let endurance and steadfastness and patience have full play and do a thorough work, so that you may be (people) perfectly and fully developed lacking in nothing.” Amplified Bible (Classic)
“Consider it wholly joyful” is a kind of crazy phrase – does God want us to gleefully delete our intellect and be joyful when a loved one dies or is diagnosed with a terminal disease? No! “Be glad even if you have a lot of trouble” is how this phrase reads in the Contemporary English Version of the Bible. These trials and suffering, this heartache, offer an opportunity for our endurance, steadfastness and patience to grow. They are meant to mature us.
Endurance. Steadfastness. Patience. It would be difficult to find a person not in need of growth in these areas. Endurance, cited in the third verse of the Amplified Bible above, speaks of the power to withstand hardship or stress. Following endurance in this same version, steadfastness is listed. Steadfastness refers to a person who exhibits the qualities of reliability, faithfulness and one who is true to the end. Lastly, the verse ends with patience which denotes the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting upset.
When experiencing trials and suffering, we are to allow endurance, steadfastness and patience to “have full play and do a thorough work so that we may be (people) perfectly and fully developed lacking in nothing.”
In The Message version of the Bible, verses 2-4 of James 1 read as follows: “Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.”