2 Count it all joy, my brothers,[b] when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
James tells us to count it all joy when we face trials. He’s basically telling us we need to look at trials in the light of what God is doing for us. To respond to difficulty with joy seems a little ridiculous at first. We try to avoid trials for the most part. James isn’t telling us to go through life and these trials with a fake smile acting like nothing is wrong. We can’t always control what happens to us but we can control how we react to them. This joy is different from happiness. Joy is being content in whatever situation that is going on. Basically James is saying that this is more than a feeling. It means choosing to live above our feelings. Trials have a purifying quality. It’s a place where something good develops.
Have you ever looked at the bottom of a rug? It’s ugly. There’s a pattern that doesn’t make sense, loose ends, and yarn everywhere. But the thing is this, you cannot judge the work or the worker by looking at the wrong side. It would be easy for us in a trial to just say I’m done. The reason it’s so easy is because we haven’t seen the top of the rug, only God has.
God’s approval of our faith is priceless because it assures us that our faith is genuine. The result of testing our faith produces steadfastness or perseverance. Perseverance is colored with the idea of hope. The focus isn’t to look at what is going on right now, it’s to look beyond this situation. This isn’t positive thinking but an inner confidence in trusting God through the trial. There’s a story about a man who sees a caterpillar. He brought it home so could watch it come out of the cocoon. The man watched it struggle for a couple of hours as the caterpillar struggled to get through the small opening. It began to seem like progress stopped and the caterpillar was stuck. The man, trying to help the caterpillar, cuts off the rest of the cocoon. The caterpillar comes out easy. It had a swollen body and small wings. The man watched it hoping to see the wings to pop out. They didn’t. The caterpillar spent the rest of his existence crawling around and was never able to fly.
Because the man was impatient, he failed to see that the caterpillar needed to struggle with the cocoon to shape the caterpillar to be what he needed to be in order to fly. Freedom and flight would only come after the struggle. Depriving him of his struggle, the man deprived the caterpillar of its potential.
Sometimes struggles are exactly what we need. If God removed the obstacles in our lives, we would never grow.
Perseverance is also a means to an end. We shouldn’t be satisfied with where we are. We should let ourselves grow to our fullest so we can become mature, lacking nothing. Completeness here means maturity. Maturity here has nothing to do with age. It has to do with everything we learn from the trials we face.The complete person is one whose character is fully formed to what Christ wants them to be. God wants us to be perfect and complete after we face a trial.
And I will put this third into the fire, and refine them as one refines silver, and test them as gold is tested. They will call upon my name, and I will answer them. I will say, ‘They are my people’; and they will say, ‘TheLord is my God.’” Zechariah 13:9
In ancient times when someone was refining gold, they would heat a fire as hot as they could get it and they would put the gold in the furnace. As the gold would start to melt down, black dross and slag would rise to the top and the person refining the gold would use a tool to scrape all these impurities off. After he scraped off the impurities he would put the gold back in the furnace and repeat this process until he could look down and see his reflection perfectly in the gold.
This is what is happening to us now. God is putting us through a process that will strengthen us. He is making us into everything he wants us to be, everything he is calling us to be.
Next time you find yourself in a trial remember that. Remember that you haven’t seen the top side of the rug, remember that caterpillar and that freedom and flight would only come after the struggle and that sometimes we have to struggle. Remember that even though it may seem hard and it feels like there’s flames all around you, the things that are keeping us from being like Christ are rising to the top and He is scraping those things back till he can perfectly see himself in our lives.
Think of the words to that old song.
He never promised that the cross would not get heavy and the hill would not be hard to climb. He never offered victories without fighting but He said help would always come in time. Just remember when you’re standing in the valley of decision and the adversary says give in, Just hold on. Our Lord will show up and He will take you through the fire again.
We have a friend in Jesus. He is a friend that sticks closer than a brother. When you’re facing tough times, remember that he is making you into everything he sees that you are.