Facing the test

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds (James 1:2)

There’s lots of things I enjoy. Some of them are old friends, others are more recent experiences where I have tried to make the most of changed circumstances.
In the process I’ve been able to do the kind of jobs that we all put off until the right time comes along That time has now arrived and I’m gradually getting through the boxes of football programmes given to me by an old friend. [Can anyone guess the significance of the programme to the left?]

Enjoyment comes from seeing chaos transformed – the garden beginning to look tidier, the programmes in club and date order –as well as the welcome opportunity to simply stop, think, chill and relax.

James has a challenging perspective on joy, one which is linked to the trials we all face. Trials – those things that come at us - are, according to James, something to be experienced (perhaps even welcomed), rather than to be feared.

It’s not a question of it possibly happening either as James seems to say that we should expect it: it’s a question of “when” not “ “if.”

My bible reading this morning (taken from Tearfund’s daily readings for Lent says this:

What do we do when a virus turns the whole world upside down?

The brokenness of life cannot be ignored. And God didn’t ignore it – he became part of it. Jesus knew all about grief and pain: he was rejected by his home community, betrayed by one of his friends, and faced an unimaginably terrifying death. He prayed for God to take that suffering away from him. Yet he also accepted it. He never deflected his pain onto other people or wallowed in victimhood. In the midst of his greatest pain, he reached out to the criminal being crucified next to him (Luke 23:40-43). How could he do this? Because he knew that after brokenness comes resurrection. There will be mountains in our lives that do not move. But we can take heart from the fact that, one day, out of the pain, something brand new may come to life.

It would be foolish to deny the enormity of what we are facing both in the UK, and across the world. To seek to minimise the pain of others through burying our heads in the sand, seems inhumane. To look for some kind of “magic wand” solution appears to be clutching at any old straw that might or might not be found.

The impact of Corona cannot be ignored. The consequences of it will be grave for many but we should not abandon hope. We can look for outcomes that seem easy to talk about but hard to see in coming to life. We need look no further than the way James follows up from verse 2: there are, he says, things we can learn from tough times and there’s also a deepening of our faith to be discovered.

It’s not a spiritual version of that old poster “Keep calm and carry on” – James invites us to find joy as we find God in all circumstances and to continue (persevere) in doing that. As we discover the God who is real, we re-experience the power of the incarnation: God is with us. That brings the present into perspective and our future with Him into view.

In Christ