Consider it a great joy, my brothers, whenever you experience various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. But endurance must do its complete work, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing. James 1:2-4 (HCSB)
This week, people all across America are preparing for a time of remembrance as the tenth anniversary of the attacks on September 11 draws near. As I hear stories of where people were when they first heard the news, it got me thinking: What was the most common question asked that fateful week in 2001? The question was “Why?” In the heat of the moment, when we face trials or difficulties, it is so easy to default to asking the question why. It’s only natural. We all want to know the reason behind the challenges we face.
As I look back at my life, I can see markers of “life lessons learned the hard way”. It seems that every test or trial that I have faced throughout my life has taught me a spiritual lesson. It’s unfortunate that we can’t always see these lessons until we endure them to the end. I guess that is why they say “hindsight is 20/20”.
If you look at James 1:2-4, it is not referring to hindsight. That is the challenge that I struggle with. James is preparing believers to consider it great joy WHEN you experience various trials. When implies that trials WILL come; it is not a matter of IF. Second, we are supposed to count it JOY in the midst of the trial, not afterwards when we have had time to think about it. That is very hard to do. Our first inclination is to put up our defenses and begin questioning God as to why He let this happen in the first place.
In James’ day, the early followers of Christ were faced with uncompromising persecution from various sides. The problems that I spend so much time complaining about seem small and petty in comparison to what the early Christian church experienced. I need to gain a little perspective and thank God that I can count what I am going through as a source of great joy in my life. I need to spend more time appreciating my trials as the means God has chosen to mold me more into His character, and less into what I want for myself.
In looking back at these life lessons learned, I need to use them to encourage those around me who are facing similar trials. God does nothing haphazard or random. The “Why?” that we are so eager to answer during our trials is producing endurance in the life of every believer. We are to use the maturity that results to encourage those around us in similar circumstances. If God brings you through a trial, use that experience to better relate to others who don’t have the benefit of hindsight. God is calling all of us to be a part of his plan and part of that plan is impacting the lives of people we come in contact with.
Everyone has a story. This next week, take time to listen to someone else’s story of a trial they may be going through. Resist the temptation to speak or give advice until they have had the opportunity to share what is on their heart. It could be that you will have an open opportunity to interject how God carried you through a similar situation and you will be used by Him to bring a portion of peace and joy to someone else’s life.
Jason McNair and his wife, Brittany, serve on staff with the Utah Idaho Southern Baptist Convention. He is the Religious Education and Collegiate Consultant working to strengthen the discipleship and Sunday school/small group ministries of 150 churches and missions. He has been with UISBC since 2009, after serving five years at First Baptist Chuch in Rincon, GA and nine years at First Southern Baptist Church in Salt Lake City, UT. He also contributes regularly to the blog, www.SundaySchoolLeader.com, where he oversees social media for the site. This blog is a partnership with the state Sunday school departments of all 42 SBC State Conventions.