“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”
— James 1:2-4 (ESV)
The absolute most terrifying part of life is summarized here in James — when you meet trials of various kinds. The last thing I naturally would like to do is count it all joy when life throws its ridiculous curve-balls at me. Perhaps what made this verse personal to me is inserting myself into the passage:
Count in all joy, when I (and I will) meet trials of various kinds, for I know that the testing of my faith produces steadfastness. And I must let steadfastness have its full effect, that I may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
When He Says No
This most recent period of my life — the last two years — has been the most anxiety-producing, nerve-wracking, difficult time I have ever experienced. And the Lord has been all the more sweet throughout all of it.
At first when I arrived at Oklahoma State in the Fall of 2013, I was excitedly nervous. I was ready to embark upon the greatest adventure of my life yet: college. I was also burnt-out, heartbroken, weary, and heavy-laden.
As the semester progressed and I continually asked the Lord to improve my situation, to take something off my heart and give me rest, He gave me a firm no. No after no continued until I broke down every night, crying for the Lord to help me, because I couldn’t do it on my own. I had no idea why things kept going so badly for me. Among other things, finances became a huge issue when one of my scholarships drastically reduced.
Christmas break of 2013, things changed. God did not say yes, but He showed me why He said no. I was attending what was then my home church on a Sunday morning when my pastor walked through 2nd Corinthians in chapter 12, and read these verses:
Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (v. 8-10 ESV)
His Sanctification of Us
The Lord revealed to me, probably for the first real time since my conversion, that it wasn’t about me wanting to get out of this situation, or this hardship. I finally realized that this was about Him conforming me, from one degree of glory to the next, to be conformed to the image of His Son.
I knew about the theological idea of sanctification, but I never realized its effect. For the first time, I finally realized that in the pain, in the trial, in the suffering, and in the persecution, God is working. He delights in and treasures me not after the pain and suffering, but in it. And in it, I am made low, and His beauty and majesty is made high. Finally, I knew what James meant when He said to count it all joy.
As a good friend of mine once said, “Sanctification is hard.” Praise the Lord that it is.