“My brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of any kind, consider it nothing but joy, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance; and let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing.”
— James 1:2-4 (NRSV)
When it humbles us, we are to consider life an impassable joy; that we have, what is, momentary awareness, the jangling of feelings, yet God holds us as okay.
The very fact of our experiential selves is tantalising. Rather than by a dearth of sickliness we approach our challenges in remembrances of joy—by simple awareness of God’s faithfulness and that to believe is choice: to go against the grain of the prevailing self that shelters us from the feeling within our pain and discomfort.
Taken further in, we know that by facing our pain and that discomfort of dread that God will be for us, a Rock, and we’ll be strengthened by our faith to face up in this way.
We don’t go into such pain and discomfort—for faith’s prize—without every sort of reasonable support we can lay our hands on; going there with all the support won’t make the challenge easy, just easier; more tolerable.
And growing our faith in these ways, to the fullness of maturity, is a lifelong process with no shortcuts. Why would we want to shortcut the process and render ourselves incapable of it because it was too much? God’s not greedy in requiring us to grow beyond our limits—his grace is eternally sufficient.
What this means, in simple terms, is maturity is the destination of being able to bear, even endure, the painful and uncomfortable. Such is the Christian calling. And through Christ there is no better way.
We may think that considering such difficulty pure joy is some sadistic thing. It’s never that at all. We only endure these things because God, by his will, has purposed them for us through the way our lives are turning out. The Lord loves us so much it’s his desire we grow. And God has faith in us that we can endure.
God is known so fundamentally in the quiet, darker spaces of life, where there’s no place to run and no place to hide. Only there can we find the truer urgent Presence abiding with us. And from a distance away from such darkness we’ll truly recall the beautiful joy we experienced even in the shrill pain—where we met our Saviour.
The more we’re humbled the more opportunity we have to grow in stately godliness. The more things happen against us the more God is for us, by our responses of faith to endure patiently those horrible moments.
Considering life pure joy, even when it disagrees violently with our notions of joy, is living life victoriously. It’s not denying our feelings, but feeling the full force of them in the all-sufficient grace of God, and growing anyway.
Considering life pure joy, not despite our circumstances, but in spite of them, is about trusting God; it’s about rejecting the temptation to lean on our own shallow understanding. God always vindicates our faith; to never stop trusting.
© 2013 S. J. Wickham.