I’d like to say that there are times in life when we face trials that wear us out. But I think the reality is, they aren’t merely times. There are seasons of life that are filled with tests. Times conjure an image of being short-lived. Yet in my experience, the periods of time where I have felt like the roof is caving in on me were not short-lived. It wasn’t a day here or a day there. It was the place where days turned into weeks that turned into months. Those are seasons of life. Seasons where I know, I felt like I had to keep doggie paddling in an attempt to keep my nose above water. Keeping my entire head there was nearly impossible. It’s in these seasons that the thought of that James 1 passage about counting all things as joy brought me to tears.
“Consider it a great joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you experience various trials, 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 nothing.” James 1:2-4
There it is in black and white. Enter the big sigh as I read it. How on earth am I supposed to find joy in trials? Trials are those times in life where so much has happened that I would love to ask, “is there anything else Lord?” but I hold my tongue. Why? Because heaven help me if there is more. I just want to hide my head in the sand and come out…never.
My seasons have been many in my lifetime. Just in adulthood there has been infertility, loss of a child, a lifetime of emotional abuse, birth of a special needs child, nearly losing my marriage, chronic illness, my Dad’s decade-long illness and eventual passing, my husband losing his parents, several major surgeries, and the list goes on and one. It makes my heart race just to think about all of it.
Yet after decades of these trials, God has been showing me how I should be finding joy in all of this suffering. Why? Because He is my Lord. Because God sent His Only Son Jesus Christ to earth to bear my sins. Jesus Christ died a torturous death on the cross in my place. He died for me! Then, He rose again! Y’all, the tomb is empty! Talk about joy. He did all of this for me! In the process of my growing in faith over the years, he taught me some other lessons found in this scripture passage.
One such lesson is that our faith is fire tested. Remember that list of my season of trials? I know you have a similar list. Well, those seasons caused me to have to rely on God more than ever before. Those seasons required that I trust God is there for me and that He will rescue me from the flames of the hottest furnace (hello Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego). Why? Because He loves me. He loves you!
The fires of life refine us. God uses the fire to remove impurities, and to strengthen my character, just like a fine jeweler does to a precious metal. And that process of refinement by fire makes us stronger. I found the strength I never realized I had when I was dealing with the final months of my Dad’s life. God showed me that all of those years of fire testing my faith were for a purpose. He had made me stronger, and in turn, I was better able to endure the season of trials because my reliance on God was greater than ever before. My faith was strong. I never lacked strength and stamina to accomplish what was necessary because God walked beside me.
I look back on these experiences and genuinely do see there was joy. In every moment of time, even in the most heartbreaking of moments, God was there. That my friend is where I found joy! I found joy in the reality that my Father never left me. I found joy in the treasure that God lifted me up when I thought I couldn’t take one more step. He provided me strength and endurance where I could never have survived under my own power.
Yes, the trials of life are frustrating, heartbreaking, and wear us down. But God. I love that phrase! But God. God steps in and walks beside us. He provides comfort, love, encouragement, and strength where we might never have had it before. He makes sure that we never lack anything. Our every need is met. And then, He gives us the ability to count it all as joy because we can look back and see how He rescued us from the fire. Talk about joy!