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)
This is the scripture that I have struggled with, not only to accept but to understand. Why this way? Not because I have to face trials; I have already accepted that trials and tribulations are inevitable, life has its highs and lows whether you are a Christian or not. The bible says in Matthew (5:45);
“He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”Matthew 5:45
What I found so perplexing is that on top of having to go through hard times, I was being urged to “Consider it pure joy”. It’s like when you were a kid and you were given a chore or punishment and you had to act as you enjoyed it, or your mom would give you the stereotypical “Stop crying or I’ll give you something to cry about”.
In my point of view going through hard times is one thing but having to count it as joy is adding insult to injury. And for a long time that was my stance, but earlier this year I was watching an interview by Rebekah Dawn (a Kenyan gospel artist) and she said something along the lines of “Gold has no fear of fire” and that stood out for me, but when I stumbled across James (1:2-4) that’s when It all clicked, It was like puzzle pieces falling into place. For the first time, it dawned on me, “what does gold think of when it sees a furnace?” Just think of what fire does to gold, It refines it. When Gold sees flame, it sees refinement, It sees a better stronger version of itself on the other end of the process. To gold, a furnace is a good thing.
For the first time reading that verse, I noticed a word, and two in fact that I always gloss over. In my rush to swallow this tough pill of scripture and move on to the feel-good parts, I completely glossed over the words testing and trial. When I pondered those words I realized something, that when a situation comes my way, it’s not for my destruction. It is so that I can become mature and complete, not lacking anything. A goldsmith never hopes the gold gets destroyed in a furnace, quite the opposite, he wants a better version of the gold, the process is there to reveal and destroy the impurities, not the gold itself.
Malachi (3:33) says;
“He (God) will sit as a refiner and a purifier of silver; He will purify the sons of Levi, And purge them as gold and silver, That they may offer to the LORD An offering in righteousness.”Malachi 3:33
This was God saying that he will remove the impurities from the nation of Israel. Removing the sorcerers, adulterers and perjurers and those who oppress the nation. But at the end of the chapter, he says that those who fear God will be spared, “they will be my treasured possession”. Likewise, God does allow your faith to be tested, but that’s all it is “the testing of your faith” not “the destruction of your faith” the challenges around you aren’t there to destroy you but to refine you. The part of you that acts justly loves grace and walks in purity, with him is his treasured possession. That’s why you should count it all as joy, knowing that waiting for you at the other end of this is a better more Christlike version of you, the one without impurities.
It says “Let perseverance finish its work” which means it’s not a one-and-done thing. Philippians (1:6) says;
“Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”
That means you will always be in the process of refinement until Jesus Christ returns.
Sometimes we don’t want the process, but we want the refined gold without the furnace and the flames. We ask God for a refined version of ourselves and get shocked when he sends us a trying situation. We ask for pure gold and yet we are astonished that a good God would ignite fires around us.
I am reminded of this scene from the movie Evan Almighty, when Morgan Freeman who was cast as god said, “When someone prays for patience, do you think God gives them patience? Or does he give them the opportunity to be patient, When someone prays to be closer to their families does God zap them with warm fuzzy feelings or does he give them opportunities to love each other?”. I want to be a better more Christlike version of myself, but I am also a warm fuzzy feeling kind of girl, and only in retrospect do I think and reflect, then grudgingly admit that a bad experience taught me something.
This year I have learned to take another look at the challenges that surround me, and ask: How is God using this to reveal something that isn’t Christlike and refine me into a better more Christ-like version of myself?.
My challenge to authors
I challenge you not to wait until the storm passes, to appreciate the training, I challenge you to look into the flame and know that It cannot destroy you, to look at the challenges around you and know that you will make it to the other end. Better yet I challenge you to count it as joy, knowing that you will in fact be better for it. I leave this question with you: How would you face the trials and tribulations around you if you knew you would make it out alive and be all the better for it, and would you count it as Joy?