Count it all Joy…
There is a text in the good book that always makes my head spin. It seems to teach what lies at the borders of the impossible. Ponder it with me:
Count it all joy when you encounter various trials, know that the testing of your faith produces endurance, and let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete lacking in nothing. James 1:3-4 NASB
“Joy” and “trials” are not my idea of a functional equivalent! This is not my idea of an easy assignment, yet according to the Lord’s brother James, it is a necessary one. There seems to be a kind of formula in this text, and it goes like this:
TRAIL + AN ATTITUDE OF JOY = PERSEVERANCE…
James is teaching this congregation going through trials, that it is possible to detect the Sovereign hand of God in the midst of their difficulties. James is attempting to get this congregation to look through their trials as they look up to God.
He is telling that congregation to use their mental faculties to “consider” their experiences of trial as a joy. How? They were to look through their trial and see beyond it to the reward. Here, the reward refers not only to heaven, but to what the trial will do to produce maturity. His caution was that the attitude of the believer must be positive, particularly as the trial becomes severe. If not, it will only produce depression.
To illustrate this, we turn to someone that the entire world is indebted to—Martin Luther. Even the Catholic church (who initially fought his reforms) have agreed that there was much in what he was saying that was correct! Were it not for him, we would likely not have an English Bible in our hands, nor would we be singing the great hymns of the faith. It was this man who invented singing great truth within lovely and singable melody. Yet there was something that troubled Luther, haunting him for most of his days.
Luther battled depression on a regular basis.
Early on in his marriage to Katarina Von Bora, Katie would watch Luther battle severe depression, even to the point of questioning God’s willingness or ability to help him through trial. One day, she realized that she needed to do something.
Without saying a word, Katie donned a black dress and veil, the kind used in that part of the world to express mourning for a loved one. When Luther asked Katie why she was dressed that way, she said, “Don’t you know?”
“Don’t I know what?” replied Luther.
“We are in mourning!” said Katie.
“Who has died then?” asked Luther.
“Why, don’t you know? Your God is dead.” Said Katie.
Appalled, Luther said, “What do you mean?”
“It is obvious from the way you are behaving that your God has died and is unable to come to our aid.”
Well, this kickstarted Luther all over again. He had to learn and re-learn that the only way to get to where God would have us through our trials is to rejoice in the midst of them. And in the middle of all the trouble and trial that comes from attempting to follow the Lord, to take the leap of faith, trusting in the God of all grace to catch us when we fall, and to carry us in the midst of our woundedness…
This takes us to the second formula found in the text:
PERSEVERANCE + TIME IN THE TRIAL = SPIRITUAL MATURITY…
This cannot be short-circuited. The only path to maturity is to keep going, to keep sledding along as God works. We keep doing this because God has an agenda to make us grow
© David Chotka, 2020