By Jason Bowman
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. James 1:2-4
No one likes to suffer. We want happiness, peace and joy. And there is nothing wrong with that! No one in Scripture wanted to suffer either. Stephen was not looking to get stoned, and Peter didn’t ask to be thrown into prison. Despite our feelings about trials and suffering, they are part of a fallen world. Even Jesus suffered through trials (Hebrews 5:8). Though we cannot avoid tribulation, according to James, we can make something good out of it. If we believe the Scripture, we must ask the question: “Do I want the trials in my life to control me or to become a means by which God grows me?”
James calls trials: the “testing of your faith” (1:3). Through trials, God wants to refine our faith. Suffering and pain are both very real, and God does not ask us to deny that. Instead, he asks us to respond by trusting him and leaning into him rather than giving into our grumbling, anger or self-pity. As we practice trust by turning to God when we hurt, asking God for strength and counting on God to bring good out of our trials, it develops perseverance in our faith.
That is the first part of growing spiritually, but we cannot give up there. James continues by writing: “Let perseverance finish its work …” (1:4). Maturity comes over time as we persist in trusting God during our most difficult moments. Building spiritual maturity takes determination in our faith and hard work in our souls. We need grit. We are building spiritual muscles. A single prayer during our trials is like going to the gym one time. It might feel good in the moment, but it won’t produce the long term impact we want. Perseverance must finish its work. This means we must exercise perseverance throughout our tribulations. As we recognize God refining our faith through our trials and we endure the tribulation by persevering in our trust of him, the Holy Spirit brings spiritual maturity to our lives.
What trials are you in right now? How are you handling them? Be honest with yourself and with God. How often are you grumbling or getting angry or getting lost in self-pity?
Today, as you feel the suffering or the anxiety brought on by the various trials in your life, respond each time by sharing with God how you are feeling in that moment. Then remember how much God loves you and ask him for strength and for the faith to trust that he is working in you to bring about spiritual maturity.