How timely was it that as I was scrolling through Facebook with tears running down my face the verse “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.” (James 1:2-3) pops up in my news feed? See, I don’t believe in coincidences. I believe in a God who is personal and present.
I am not the type of person to be hit with a trial or a wave of pain and stand up in church and share how blessed I am to be suffering for Christ’s sake. That may very well be true since we know that we can expect persecution and trial in this life just as Jesus did, but honestly, it isn’t fun. I have never understood what having joy in trial actually looks or feels like. The closest I have ever gotten to understanding what James meant when he penned those words is the feeling you get when you see a trial come full circle. It is a whole lot easier to look back after you have been delivered from pain and see how it allowed you to minister comfort to others or strengthened your faith than it is to recognize that God is still good while in the midst of hurt.
I texted my mom the other day and told her that I was fearful of what God was going to take away next. I jokingly said to her that I felt like Job and then attached the little embarrassed-face emoji to the message. But really, I wasn’t joking. For those of you who have decided to join me by keeping up with my stories while on this journey, you know the trials and hurt that have followed me around the past few months. And yet again, I felt as though God had taken a friendship with someone I love away from me. I started to worry about what He would decide to remove from my life next.
I was sharing all of this with a very close friend tonight, and after I said all that I had the words to say, she asked me a question. “How is your faith and trust in God holding up? I know you have been hit over and over again the past few months with difficult situations. Is that wearing on you now that something else has happened?”
That was the first time I ever experienced what I think James may have been referring to when he wrote verses 2-3. I got a little choked up, looked up and just smiled. My response to her was something a little like this: “You know, there are days when I just look up at God and ask ‘Don’t you see me hurting?’ There are days when I am feel like I have to hold onto any source of joy or peace a little tighter in fear that God may remove it from me. But… (cue the tears) I gave a chapel talk to my high school over break about faith, and this is the time that I have to show them that I actually believe what I said to them is true. I can’t see what God is doing. I can’t understand why God is allowing another thing to go wrong. But, I can say that I have seen Him do too many good things for me to just not believe that there is purpose in this, goodness for me and glory for Him to come of it.” I actually experienced a certain amount of joy sitting there on her carpet surrounded by used tissues as I reflected on all the ways that God had come through for me in the past.
After I said that (which was definitely the work of the Spirit because that is so not the way my humanness would have responded to that question) I felt a bit of excitement grow as I began to anticipate what God was going to create from this situation. He isn’t going to give up now, which means I have a lot to anticipate as I yet again wait with open hands.