You’ve heard it before – there is a wall a distance runner hits that hurts considerably, then as that wall is breached, the pain dissipates. People who exercise every day know the adage well: “no pain, no gain.”
James reminds us that we work under a similar adage:
“Consider yourselves happy indeed, my brethren, when you encounter trials of every sort, as men who know well enough that the testing of their faith breeds endurance.”
As we live through ‘trials of every sort,’ we are asked to consider these as opportunities for growth. As a matter of fact the only difference between our trials and those of the rest of humanity is that we have faith. Our faith is strengthened as we face the tribulations which are common to all human beings.
Therefore, we may as well be happy. For our happiness is not dependent upon our circumstances, but upon the victory won by our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness,” writes James “to the twelve tribes in the Dispersion.” James further writes that the full effect of steadfastness is perfection, so that we are “lacking in nothing.” (James 1: 4)
God is “like a refiner’s fire and like fuller’s soap. He sits as a refiner and purifier of silver, and He purifies the sons of Levi and refines them like gold and silver, and they bring offerings in righteousness to the Lord.” (Malachi 3: 2 – 3)
Trials are common to humankind; not one of us escapes them. The son of David writes,”Whether it is love or hate, man does not know; both are before him. It is the same for all, since the same event happens to the righteous and the wicked, both to the good and the evil, to the clean and the unclean, to him who sacrifices and to him who does not sacrifice. As the good one is, so is the sinner, and he who swears is as he who shuns an oath. This is an evil in all the is done under the sun, that the same event happens to all.” (Ecclesiastes 9: 1 – 3)
Very few are able to count trials as joy. But Christians “know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom [God] foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son.” (Romans 8: 28 – 29) If we are to be “conformed to the image of [God’s] Son,” then we must be refined. The process of refinement is often painful as the dross of our daily lives is burnt off, melted away through adversity. Adversity makes as stronger, if we submit to it and learn from it. “In the day of prosperity be joyful, and in the day of adversity consider: God has made the one as well as the other.” (Ecclesiastes 7: 14)
The manner in which we respond to the days of adversity is key — if we trust that God is at work in us for His good pleasure, to perfect us; then we are able to count those times of suffering as joy.