Have you ever asked the question, “God, why are you allowing me to go through this?” That type of question may be followed by another, maybe with a bit more passion – “Will you please take this trial from me? I don’t want to do this anymore!” If this is you, you’re not alone. No one enjoys trials, suffering, or discomfort.
The Bible, however, paints a much different picture of how we should view trials. James, in writing to the Jews dispersed throughout the Roman Empire, says this: “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials” (James 1:2). Wait, what? Count it all joy when I fall into various trials? I don’t know about you, but at this point, this makes no sense to me. Let’s go on to the next three verses – “…knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him” (James 1:3-5).
With the added context to James 1:2 there is a bit more to chew on. Could it be that James is not implying that trials bring us immediate joy; rather, that trials are life circumstances that test us, giving us grief in various forms and on various levels, functioning as a forerunner of joy? Could it be that trials are meant to reveal the reality of our hearts and minds at a point in time and circumstance? As the pain is endured, could joy be the reaction that reflects how we are expecting an intervention from the Lord?
According to James, trials (those circumstances that we’d just as soon avoid), lead us to patience, a steadfast perseverance, that grounds us in our faith journey. Moreover, James suggests that we seek wisdom, which is a God-ordained gift to all who simply ask for it. So, could it be that rather than asking for relief from the trial, we should ask for wisdom instead? If we get instant relief from the trials we face, do we have an opportunity to grow, to become “perfect and complete, lacking nothing”? Or do we continue to have a shallow faith that’s easily rocked at the slightest provocation? If we only get relief, could we be missing out on getting closer and closer to God’s design for us – a person with a steadfast faith, who walks in wisdom and in truth?
We can easily lose perspective due to the enemy’s interference when we are suffering – after all, who likes suffering? It’s our time in the trials, however, that requires us to rely on God. If our lives were trouble-free would we need God and His perspective? Would we need His wisdom? Life’s reality involves suffering, but it’s our faith that helps us see how God sees us in our suffering. When we’re in a time of suffering, God is the one who is intervening, seeking to draw us closer to Himself. The wisdom that we ask for will help us to see him at work; without that, we’re just beings tossed about by chance and fate. I don’t know about you, but I’d much rather inquire of the Creator when I’m faced with a trial than trust in some cosmic non-personal force.
So, how do we get this wisdom? We ask God – this gift is given to all “liberally and without reproach.” Proverbs 9:10 says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” This fear of the Lord is about respect, awe and submission. If we seek the easy way out of life’s trials, are we submitting to the Lord, or are we treating Him as a benevolent rescuer who has nothing to teach us? Through life’s difficulties, we hold on to that desire for wisdom because we need wisdom to see trials from our Heavenly Father’s perspective.
So, the question is, “what kind of life do you want to live?” Do you want to be steadfast in your faith, rooted in the wisdom that can only come from our Heavenly Father, or are you content with a quick fix or a speedy rescue? The quick fix will never bring growth, wisdom or maturity; rather, you will continue to be “…tossed to and fro and carried away with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting” (Ephesians 4:13b-14).