A friend and I have been chatting for a while this morning about the purpose of trials and suffering. We were led in our discussion to James 1:2-4. God really used this passage to encourage me and prepare my heart once again for the trials and suffering that he has in store for me. When we are in between sufferings, God gives us conversations like these to build our hearts and get us ready before the fire actually comes, so, for this I am thankful. I wanted so share some of our reflections and write them to seal it in my own heart and mind.
James says that trials are a testing, a tempering, for the purpose of producing steadfastness. KJV says that testing produces patience, while the NIV and NASB say, “perseverance” and “endurance,” respectively. It’s cool what each of these words conjures up in my imagination. Steadfast makes me think of those old Scottish castles in the highlands. They have endured through storms, battles, time, and human activity. Yet… they are firm, still there to awe us and make us feel nostalgic. Trials and sufferings produce rock solid castles of faith that endure the weathering of life.
Perseverance and endurance remind me of marathon runners. Running, running, running, to go the long haul. Building their fortitude. Able to maintain long and rugged courses. Withstanding the pressures to achieve the goal.
All of these things are what James has in mind. He says in vs. 4 that the full effect of steadfastness of faith is perfection and completion. God turns the heat up in your life and my life to produce a faith in us that will carry us to the goal, the prize, namely, being with God himself. Like children running to candy as the staple of their diet, we run to the world to satisfy. God uses suffering and trials to wean us off of that which destroys and make us desire that which satisfies.
Thus, James can say, count it all joy when you meet trials. God is producing in you something that will last forever and deeply satisfy. Oh what joy!