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Nothing But Joy

Consider it nothing but joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you fall into various trials. Be assured that the testing of your faith [through experience] produces endurance [leading to spiritual maturity, and inner peace].  James 1:2-3 AMP

Consider it nothing but joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you fall into various trials...
"Nothing but joy" would not be the first phrase that comes to mind when asked about my life lately.  Falling into "various trials" certainly gets a lot closer to describing the last four or five months.  Yet, here in scripture, James (the brother of Jesus) is saying that trials are a source of joy.  Taken alone, that one verse would be easy to dismiss as a pithy statement of a man from long ago who does not understand my circumstances.  But then, James adds the next line, and I begin to understand the depth of his encouragement.

Be assured that the testing of your faith [through experience]...
It seems that James is saying that everyday life, the experiences we all face, will test our faith.  I get that.  My belief has not changed, God has not changed, but when I am struggling I have a lot more questions.  Sometimes I feel confused or disoriented by the way the world is changing, or I feel disappointed and angry about the choices people around me have made.  I wonder what I am meant to do and I wonder why God does not seem to be doing more.  I search the scriptures for wisdom and pray for God to speak and move.  Can you relate?

Be assured that the testing of your faith produces endurance...
James is making a point about faith that sounds like building a muscle.  When life feels heavy and we press against it into faith, it is like lifting weights in the gym.  Whether we repeatedly need to press against everyday stressors or have especially difficult challenges in front of us, engaging with God in the struggle actually strengthens our faith.  It occurs to me that when I do work out, my muscles get sore.  The discomfort is actually evidence of progress.  Perhaps James is tapping into a similar truth that if I am weary from pushing hard against the trials in life, it is evidence of my faith muscle being built.

Be assured that the testing of your faith [through experience] produces endurance [leading to spiritual maturity, and inner peace]...
If that is true, eventually we will have enough muscle that some things no longer feel so heavy.  Moreover, we will have confidence to face the larger challenges that come our way.  Even a rough season will no longer seem overwhelming or impossible because we have learned to press hard into faith.  Spiritual maturity and inner peace are the result of working out our faith.  They come when we seek God in the midst of our difficult experiences, pressing hard into him and against the heaviness of our circumstances.

There is the joy in trials: strength of faith, spiritual maturity, inner peace.  When I face up to disappointment alongside friends and family, it is uncomfortable--sometimes even painful--but we begin making progress.  Glimmers of hope come into sight.  Searching scripture to reorient me in the chaos of today's news cycle reminds me that I am a citizen of God's Kingdom, a beloved child of his family, and those things cannot be changed by a virus or a government or anything else.  Inner peace spreads within me.  I turn my frustrated wondering into prayer conversations with God and he reveals more of himself, and myself, to grow my spiritual maturity.  These are all sparks of joy and evidence that God is at work, doing a transformational miracle in my life.  

Can you see the joy in your life trials too?  I am praying for transformational miracles in your life right now, and nothing but joy for you in this season my friends!

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