Sometimes I feel like Little Red Riding Hood. I’m traveling toward the Father’s house along a winding road, running from wolves in the bushes. I can’t always see well, and I stumble. Accidents happen. I pass people on other roads who look like they’re having a much better time than I am, and who call me to join them.
If I want to arrive safely at the end, I need to stay on the road; stay focused on God and on the blessing that he promises.
Life has a way of getting in the way, doesn’t it? One reason I love the book of James is the way he deals with this, straight up. He looks at trials from without and temptations from within. Both of them can slow us down or get us off the track on our journey, but they can also be the means by which we’re strengthened and matured. James shows us how to face the things life throws our way and turn them to our benefit.
A few years ago, Jeff Cavins and I wrote a Bible study on the Book of James. Over the next month, I’d like to share some of the helpful “pearls” of wisdom James gives us in his little book, that have been helpful to me. The first one, I should paint on the walls of my house so I don’t forget it:
“Count it all joy” (James 1:2)
From the very start of his book, James grabs your attention: “Count it all joy,” he says, “when you meet various trials.”
You have got to be kidding me!
No, he’s not. James calls us to come out of our self-pity, our worry and fear, and look at what’s happening to us from a new perspective.
It really is possible to “count” our trials as joy. “Count” as in calculate, reckon, consider, deem. To face our trials with joy. Why? Because of Who God is. Because he loves us and works all things together for our ultimate good (Rom 8:28). Because of God’s loving care, trials temper us the way fire acts on iron to make it steel: removing impurities, making it strong and flexible so it doesn’t break. “The testing of your faith produces steadfastness,” James says. It makes us strong, complete, mature (1:3-4).
Every trial offers us the possibility of forming something great in our lives—like an irritating piece of sand gives an oyster occasion to form a pearl. Think about that for a minute: without an irritant, there will never be a pearl. It is a necessary condition of forming the gem.
God uses the trials that come our way to turn us into something precious and strong and of lasting value. Next time you meet a trial, you have an opportunity. How will you use it? Will you worry that grain of sand, rub it and make it worse – or will you let it become a pearl?
This is a good verse to take into your heart and memorize. It’ll come to mind and help you one day when you need it:
“Count it all joy when you meet various trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.” (James 1:2-3)
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Read my other posts on James here (the links will become live as they are posted):
- “Mirror, mirror” (or, what it means to be a doer; 1:22-25) – on the Bible Study for Catholics blog
- When the Rubber Meets the Road (1:26)
- Show No Partiality (2:1-13)
- Patience vs. Grumbling (5:9)
Study James: Pearls of Wise Living in your home group or parish.