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
Did you know that in order for muscles to get stronger, they first have to be weakened? If you have ever experienced sore muscles after a day of exercising or work, you’ve experienced this process. The muscle fibers tear down and then build themselves back up in order to be stronger than they were before. The spiritual life so often works the same way. To get stronger we must first get weaker.
In his letter, James encourages believers to not be discouraged by the setbacks of struggles and trouble. He admits that difficulties will come “whenever you face trials.” Notice he said whenever, not if. Although he does not tell us to smile our way through these struggles, he challenges us to look at them as an opportunity for joy and an opportunity for growth. In this instance, instead of building a physical muscle, James is showing how the Lord uses trials to help us build emotional and spiritual muscles in our lives. Experiences that bring distress and trial so often make us stronger in the long run.
James calls us to turn our struggles into times of reflection and learning, allowing them to teach us. It is through these struggles that we mature in our faith and are able to show our true colors. I had a friend once tell me to be careful of what you ask for when you pray. She said, “I prayed for patience, and suddenly I found myself in a lot of situations requiring me to be patient.” What we see as times of trial and challenge, God uses in our lives, providing opportunities to help us develop character and the fruit of the Spirit.
Building godly character is not often easy. The road will be marked with struggle. It is simply a part of the Christian journey. The great news is, you have the promise and hope that the Lord is walking with you the entire time. He will not leave you on your own to handle things by yourself. He is walking with you, guiding you, strengthening you, and helping you build character and perseverance so you can remain strong.
1. Looking back over your life, where do you see hard times for which you are now thankful?
2. What were the lessons you learned through those challenges?
2 Corinthians 6:3-7; 1 Peter 1:3-9; James 1:2-8