I grew up attending Christian school from first through seventh grade. There were many things I loved about attending a Christian school but one of the favorite things I loved was Bible verse memorization and presentation. It was such fun to memorize the promises of God, especially the good ones.
Notice I said the good ones. That is because there were certain Bible verses that I always shied away from, back then and even now as a grown woman. Truth be told, they simply scared me. They talked about both good and bad things – all within the same verse. Who wants to hear that? I don’t know about you but, as a little girl and now, I much prefer to hear the good Bible verses and experience good times.
Obviously, that is not how life works. We have to take the good with the bad because it is not always a rosy picture.
I have learned that this Christian walk is all about endurance. Endurance in our prayer time. Endurance with our faith. Endurance in seeking and praising God.
This year has been a year of turmoil for me. Many things have happened and one of my “scary scriptures” has now become one of my “good scriptures” and one I have turned towards faithfully, rather than run away from.
My “scary-turned-good” scripture is in James 1:2-4 and the verse I grew up memorizing is in the King James Version which states “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.“
I have to tell you, three words in that scripture have always leaped out at me. The “count it all joy” has always puzzled me. Why should I count it all joy? Why would I have any desire to be joyful when something I don’t want or need to happen actually happens? The real answer is because God wants us to have faith and endurance at ALL times.
I like how it is explained in the New Living Translation “Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.”
The Message Bible even goes so far as to say “Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides.” Excuse me, what? A gift is supposed to be something we welcome because we want it. Or a gift is offered to us as a pleasant and unexpected surprise. A gift is not something bad that happens to us unexpectedly, makes us uncomfortable by upsetting or redirecting our carefully planned lives, or is something we have absolutely no desire to ever choose to encounter.
Trials as gifts. Sounds horrifically odd. Yet trials are fabulous gifts. They make us look deep within. They raise our awareness. They test our faith. They show us who we are and the substance we are made of. They allow us to take on the characteristics of Christ and to share our testimony with others who experience a similar trial so we can build up the body of Christ.
The next time you experience a trial, be joyful. Remain faithful as you endure. Consider it ALL joy. Good things are going to happen as you move through it to make it to the other side of it – and beyond.