Thanks to a little James 1 action, considering trials as joy has been on the front of my tired mind of late. I had the chance to share my thoughts with a group of women last week, and have yet to release them thanks to some friends traveling tough roads. Just yesterday we learned about a friend’s (a MOAT’s) incredibly difficult road. Her path that had already been littered with challenges like a special needs situation, recently diagnosed cancer and surgery took a drastically sad turn this weekend. After discovering that the air conditioning had gone out in their house, Ann’s sweet husband went in another room to get a window unit fired up. While in there, he had a seizure that quickly led to his death.
I can’t imagine.
I don’t want to imagine.
One day she’s “healthy”. The next day she’s fighting cancer. One day her best friend is walking by her side. The next, he’s gone.
… Then I think, “No. Her best friend IS by her side.” She just can’t see him. She’s never seen him, but she has felt him. She has banked her life on him. He promises a comfort to which none can compare. He gives life and peace. He tells us that our time on this earth is going to be hard and full of trials and suffering. Apparently, there’s joy to be had somewhere in that mix.
Joy, as we define it, most certainly is far from the mind of my friend.
But hope surrounds the admonition. For it is only through hope that we can… “Consider it joy, my brothers, when you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.” (James 1:2-3)
Hope in the One who never changes. Hope in the One whose words are true. Hope in the One who is faithful. Hope in the One who consistently does the impossible (see a dry seabed, a dead child alive, men walking in a fiery furnace without so much as a singe or smell of smoke, eyes that see, thousands fed from meager provision, God in the form of a man that surrendered his innocent life only to be raised from the dead never to die again). Hope in the One sees all, hears all, knows all … and dries every tear.
Last week when I shared thoughts on this topic, we touched on the difficulty. How can we consider trials/suffering “joy”? Seriously??!!… How?
How does Ann “consider it joy”? How do the little girls that lost their mom last week to cancer? How about the mother who just gave birth to twin girls … then slipped into a coma after a heart attack? How about my friend Dana whose body is ravaged by cancer, who struggles (but rarely lets on) with almost all-consuming nausea and pain for most of her waking moments.
How about….? The list goes on and on. We have absolutely no clue how long….. But God does.
Because – He’s the secret. He IS joy. It is “the joy of his presence” that we just might find when we lean into our faith and persevere – “the testing of our faith that produces perseverance” because it strengthens our faith as we grow to know him, really know him because we’ve got nothing to stand on other than him.
In a crazy sort of way, the suffering offers a chance to tap into a supernatural peace in the midst of mind-numbing, often life-altering pain and sorrow. Such peace doesn’t take away the pain, but it provides a taste of God’s sufficiency. Trials take God’s sufficiency and usher it straight from head knowledge to the heart. I think it’s then that we find joy.
Circumstances change. But, God doesn’t.
A few years ago, my friend Kelly looked at his wife after leaving an oncologist’s office. Appointment after appointment led to worse and worse news. Dejected the notoriously effervescent woman stood in the parking lot, trying to figure out how she was going to deal with the diagnosis – how they would tell their kids. “Tell me about the God to whom we prayed before we went into that doctor’s office,” he said to her. She remembered. Oh yeah, He’s the God that hears all. He’s the fortress of Salvation. He’s the Counselor. He’s the Healer. He’s my Provider. Tenderly, Kelly encouraged his wife, “Has God changed in the time we walked in and walked out of that appointment?”
And one of the greatest things of all… He tells us that He’ll be there every step of the way. More than just be there – He takes the steps for us. If we let him. Remind me to let him when I can’t see the forest because of the trees.
Thanks for walking the road with me. Please pray for sweet Ann today.
“Surely you have granted him eternal blessings and made him glad with the joy of your presence. For the king trusts in the Lord; through the unfailing love of the Most High he will not be shaken.” Psalm 21