“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
Ever since I was in seventh grade, the Lord has continued to show me Truth in these words from His Word. From small trials to bigger struggles, I have learned that even the smallest of experiences can be faith-testing. Day to day life brings with it possible unfortunate interactions with people we aren’t particularly fond of; decisions to make about work, school, or both; and everything in between. Life isn’t easy, and sometimes it can feel like we are stuck in an endless cycle of hard decisions and difficult experiences without any sign of growth in sight. This can really induce two possible responses: fight or flight.
Before we really get into this, it is crucial to note that God does not tempt us, but that we do experience trials in order to produce growth. For believers, these trials often involve wrestling with our humanity vs. the Holy Spirit in us. This is a continual struggle, sometimes resulting in discouragement which can motivate us to push forward or can give us the space to run. It is in these moments when it is up to us either to choose to believe, despite our feelings, that God is in control and to be obedient to what He has called us to do or to believe the lie that faith in God is hopeless and that He will not redeem our current situation; that we’ve gone too far, that there’s too much pain or that all of our negative experiences were His fault to begin with.
God wants so desperately to pull us in close, so tightly to the point where we cannot help but stay right there with Him when we walk through these trials. He is hurting with us when we experience loss and pain. He is walking with us when we feel alone and aimless. We live in a fallen world and sometimes it seems like way too much to handle, but this is when we have the opportunity to look to our God. A God who came down to earth, walked in our shoes, and experienced the same hurt and grief we experience, ultimately taking it to the highest level, experiencing the highest hurt by sacrificing his perfection for our sinfulness and dying an agonizing death for people who didn’t deserve it. He knows our struggles. He is not like the person who says that they understand, but really has no idea what we are dealing with. He knows. He identifies.
It is in these times of spiritual dryness or struggle that we are developing perseverance. When we choose to not just believe in God, but to believe Him that He is in control when our lives feel out of control, we are persevering, and according to James, in these crazy moments, perseverance is working toward spiritual maturity. We are learning to trust, just like a young adopted child who has experienced abuse or neglect has to learn to trust their new family who loves them dearly. It takes work. It takes digging deep into the issues of our lives to work through our lack of faith and trust. This is bound to be painful at times, but even still, we can know that God is molding us and shaping us into the image of Christ.
I recently heard spiritual growth explained in a way that I had never thought of before. Imagine a piece of paper that has been scribbled on completely. The scribbles, as they move from left to right on the page, angle slightly toward the top of the page. The scribbles represent our lives. There are so many ups and downs, and we can often forget where we are in relation to past and future events, but the scribbles are steadily angling upwards, sometimes unnoticeably. This angle upwards represents spiritual growth. God is using every moment, every circumstance to grow us. Our faith is increasing when we make conscious decisions out of faith. This encouraging truth gives us freedom in knowing that our relationship with God does not depend on what we experience. None of that can snatch us from God’s hand. We can have pure joy in our trials because we know the result: perseverance which leads to spiritual maturity and completeness and God is faithful to bless us with that.
Our spiritual growth does not depend on us, friends, and our trials do not determine where we stand with God. He takes every moment and uses it for His glory even when it seems impossible. Let’s fight through the trials with truth and knowledge of the fact that God is walking right there with us, and we can have pure joy in the fact that we are growing and we lack nothing.
words by Camryn Reeves and photo by Hailey Pierce