Archive for May, 2011
God’s Word gives us this guidance as we go through the various trials of life:
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:2-4).
This truth helps us understand why God permits suffering in our lives. Suffering comes in the form of trials we must face. These trials come in various shapes and sizes. When James speaks of “many kinds of trials,” he speaks literally of multi-colored trials. They may touch us at the point of our physical health, our emotional well-being, our financial security, our professional responsibilities, or our spiritual battles.
Trials may last for a few days or for several years, but we are assured that God has such a certain plan for us through the trials that we are told to rejoice in them. And what is this plan? Ultimately it is that we will be “mature and complete, not lacking anything” (v.4). This means to be spiritually mature and personally complete in every detail, lacking nothing in the way of a fully developed life in Christ.
Big question: Is that the overarching desire of our lives? If it isn’t, and if we want mainly to be comfortable and stress-free in life, we will run from trials rather than rejoice in them. We will whine through the trials rather than to worship through them.
However, if we have come to the place in our lives where we desire, more than anything else, a life absolutely full of God, we can think on our trials with joy. We understand the connection between our suffering and the glorious purposes of God for our lives.
A key piece in this puzzle is something called perseverance or patient endurance. In God’s plans for us we must go through suffering so we can develop this endurance. Why? Because the ultimate purpose of God in us (to be mature and complete) cannot be accomplished until endurance has finished its great work in us.
Endurance is developed by prolonged exposure to pain and strain.
Runners learn this in training for long-distance races. They cannot run for hours on end without endurance. And that endurance comes from prolonged exposure to pain and strain. Over time runners add time and intensity to their workouts so the body gradually adapts to the increasing demands put upon it. They will not be able to complete a race until patient endurance has finished its work.
Maybe you have thought something like, “Oh I wish this problem would just go away. I’m tired of dealing with it.” I certainly have. But if the trial just goes away before endurance has finished its work … if the suffering ends before my faith has been adequately tested and strengthened … then I will miss God’s glorious purpose through the trial. I will miss the life full of God.
Again, the big question is, “Do I want to be spiritually mature and personally complete in Christ more than I want to be free of pain and strain?”
Remember, endurance is developed by prolonged exposure to pain and strain. There are no short-cuts. So whether the trial last for a few days or several years, we know that God knows exactly how long it takes for our faith to be strengthened and for patient endurance to finish its great work in us.
This process is successful when we learn how to rejoice throughout the prolonged exposure to pain and strain. We must develop the ability to be sustained by God when the fears and worries press in on us so heavily that we can hardly breathe. How can we keep from being absolutely paralyzed by anxiety as we go through trials? We learn the skill described in Philippians 4:6-7:
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
I’m returning to our study of the Psalms, a series I’ve entitled “Faith Songs.” There are songs that we sing to our children. Faith must sing to the next generation. (more…)