|from the Complete Jewish Bible|
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.
But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.
That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord.
Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.
I think of James often. Well, I suppose I can't say I think of James, himself, but of his words. Since I definitely affirm that James is my favorite book of the canon, I can easily say that I meditate on his words, find myself quoting him often, as well as recognizing them in conversations and writing. I consider the 'count it all joy' concept daily, both in times of ease and difficulty.
I often contemplate how I can find joy in pain, heartache and brokenness. Sure, with difficulty comes growth in character, perseverance and patience without doubt. I learned early on in my homeschooling career, that when one of my precious students was confronted with a particularly difficult concept, the growing pains were obvious. Reluctance, resistance and angry tears was their response, time and time again. "I just can't do it!" was something we not only say as children when those growth opportunities present themselves, but as adults, as well. It was a lesson I learned well with my kids; persistence, patience and reassurance of my constant presence always brought them through those tough learning milestones. I am convinced that our Heavenly Father feels the same, and hence our admonition from James.
Our Father knows what lies ahead and how it will all end, without a doubt. But we, in our finite view, can only see the immediate; only feel the sting of rejection, the passion of wanting things to turn out a certain way or the pain of insulting injury. I have to regularly chide myself to find it all joy when I'm deep in the middle of a no-win situation or when the twists and turns leave me stranded in a strange place. Count it all joy, he says.
Trying to be joyful definitely helps the attitude when you are down in the dregs...at least we think it should, right? Can I force myself to feel joyful when I just lost my mother to a wretched heart attack? Or when a dear friend is enduring a horrible personal situation? Perhaps this joy is deeper than a happy facial expression and kind thoughts; maybe it's the deep knowing that comes with a confirmed relationship with the One who holds my life in His hands. The joy of knowing that He has things well in hand, and will not let the enemy steal what's most important from me, and that is the love and acceptance of Mashiach and ultimately of the Father Himself. That joy comes from knowing that He can, and will, use me even while I am reeling from the type of heartbreak that grips your breath and mind. That kind of joy is shown when a hurting soul crosses your path, compelling you to reach out to them in benevolence. That's joy. The joy of serving others. Pure joy that is expressed in living love and compassion.
James says that there is a rather positive consequence when we count it all joy. He says that the result of testing and difficult times results in developing perseverance. Perseverance for what? More testing? Great...
But wait, this is a good thing. As we develop perseverance (persistent determination, patience, endurance, more patience...) we will grow in our maturity as believers and inevitably show more fruit of the Ruach (love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control). And, as we grow in maturity, we grow closer in our relationship with Hashem. And as we grow closer to Him, we pray more, we spend more time in His word, we give more...we love more. We become less judgmental and more accepting of the differences of others. We meet others where they are so we can truly help them when they are in need. Yes, maturity that results in loving G-d deeply and loving each other in a way that nourishes and edifies all around us. Building each other up...building community, even. I'd have to say that is a rather positive outcome, or harvest, from counting our trials as all joy.
Are you going through a difficult season? (Believe me, I'm right there with you.) If we are believers in the Most High, we can rest assured that He has things under control. Not only that, but He wants better things for us, He wants us to grow. James could easily be saying, "Pick yourself up, dust yourself off and take a deep breath." It's time to embrace our experiences, learn from them, persevere and keep walking in righteousness as well as we can. Continuing in prayer and praise and walking so close to Him that we can feel His presence right beside us. And we can do this because we know that He is persistently and reassuringly urging us to make it through this milestone to the other side. What awaits you, and me, is maturity and completeness that lacks nothing. Nothing. Lacking nothing. Not lacking wisdom, not lacking knowledge, not lacking fellowship with Him. I like lacking nothing, personally.
James would be pleased that I definitely want to count it all joy, without question.
Now, if the LORD will give me the strength to do it, I'll be eternally grateful.