2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. James 1:2-4
This week I have literally put into practise what I preached.
Last week my son’s health began to decline as I was preparing to preach on Sunday. He was not his healthy self. We kept on moving forward, childhood illnesses come and go, and we imagined this too would pass. My assigned passage for the sermon was James 1. This well-known letter to Christian believers begins with James, the half-brother of Jesus, encouraging all to persevere through trials and allow a maturing of faith.
Normally, as I prepare sermons, the Holy Spirit reveals truths that I treasure. Gems I draw from about life and the passage. However, this sermon was different. I had a message for the congregation but I did not feel that same conviction in my preparation of the passage.
As the days passed this week, our son’s health continued to deteriorate and each day James’s words echoed in my mind.
My first instinct was to reject them. How could I consider it pure joy as I watched our child struggle with his health each day? How could I consider it pure joy as he suffered despite our prayers and medical care? How could I consider it pure joy as my mother-heart broke at the sight of his tears and trauma? The wrestle was real.
Still James’s words stood.
Immovable in my mind. Like a lighthouse, that I could glimpse in the distance.
Perhaps the sermon was not to be a testimony of what God had taught me. Possibly, it was a prophetic preparation for what we were about to experience. Not a recounting of what God had done but of what He was about to do.
I have come to realise that sometimes when Father God begins to reveal something it is not merely a theology lesson, or to understand what has been, it is preparation for what is ahead. I think of it as an act of His kindness. We cannot recognise it at the time but He is equipping us with the resources we will need to face what is to come.
I remember my mother sharing this thought with me during a trying time a few years ago. My parents were the victims of a serious motor vehicle accident. Mum required emergency heart surgery and was in ICU for several days.
While recovering, she recalled how two days before the accident she had seen doctors perform the operation she would experience on television. When the doctors told her they would need to perform that exact same surgery on her heart, she understood what was happening and felt at peace about it. She had a sense of God’s goodness in preparing her for the trial.
It is these moments of God’s goodness, that James encourages us to grab hold of like an anchor in the storm of life’s trials. Our grip on His love and goodness strengthens our faith. These anchors help us to preserve through the pain. It was this thought that kept my heart at peace when my emotions wanted to bubble uncontrollably to the surface this week.
His kindness in giving me James’s words to stand upon, before I knew I would need them, acted as a fortress around me during a difficult time. They kept me trusting in His goodness and calling on His name with faith that He would see us through. I learnt to hold on and hold out for longer than I have ever done in the past.
This has been one of my joys in the trial of this week. I am grateful for James’s heart to shift my perspective beyond the disaster to the goodness of Father God. I could see His hand holding mine as I have held my sons.