Recently, I’ve been going through the letters of Paul and other letters in the New Testament, usually just a chapter a day or maybe even a book if I’m trying to avoid homework. I’ve noticed many benefits from this small habit, but I’ll save that for another post. Today is Thanksgiving and it just so happens that today’s reading was the first chapter of James.
Usually in my daily reading, I just skim through one time and then slow down on the second time through, taking in each verse morsel by morsel. But today was different. Something caught my attention right from the get go; “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing,” (James 1:2-4).
People must have thought James was out of his mind after reading this. Rejoice in trials? At the time James was writing this, Christians were being hunted or at the very least imprisoned for their faith. And yet James encourages them to rejoice over this fact – not because they were taking a stand for the gospel (although that’s commendable as well), but because their trials and tribulations, as James says, was going to produce something in them that the world doesn’t have.
I think one of the key differences between now and when I wasn’t following Christ is that I don’t let the little things get the best of me as often. In fact, hardly at all in comparison. You see, back then I would get so terribly worked up over little things that I either didn’t have or didn’t experience. In the eighth grade, I was so worried about not having a sense of purpose, a sense of meaning, a sense of identity, that I was ready to end my own life. And when I got to high school – although I had technically become a “Christian” – I was still worried about not having a girlfriend, not having athletic success, and just not having an easy life in general.
But then I started to follow Christ. It was something beyond going to church or any college group or Bible study; it was something I felt within my soul. The change I made my freshman year of college wasn’t to start reading my Bible more or to listen to more sermons on iTunes; it was merely to move to the beat of Christ, the rhythm of God, careless of where that led me. Little by little, I started to trust Him, started to take Him at His word – that when He promises to never leave me like my dad did, He means it. And He keeps His promises.
Trust, however, has various levels. I’ve trusted complete strangers at Starbucks to watch over my laptop while I grabbed a coffee, but trusting God is much more complex. Why? Because with God, you’re entrusting Him with more than mere books and computers at a coffee shop; you’re entrusting Him with your heart, wounds and all. For me, this meant that my wound of not having a dad around had to be dealt with. When I gave God the green light, I was hit with a trial of trust and faith that I’ve never faced before. At many times during the test, I didn’t think I’d get out, I didn’t think my issues would ever get resolved. Many, many times, I just wanted to back out, to abandon everything and forget that I ever even let God into my heart. And yet, He kept tugging on my shoulder, kept pulling me forward.
James wasn’t crazy; he was well-seasoned in the faith. He knew exactly how God works; meeting us in our lowest states, our most hopeless conditions, and resurrects us from the dead. When we’ve done all the running that we can, God is still there to breathe life back into us – to turn our dry bones into complete, whole bodies of light. No matter how dark and depressed we have felt, God has permeated every wall, every barrier, every trial and struggle to dive into the deepest part of our hearts. And when He finishes catching our tears, He lifts our chins, pulls us to our feet, and moves us forward.
So for this year of Thanksgiving, I’m grateful for the things I’ve gone through. Sure, I’m still thankful for the friends and family (both blood family and spiritual family) that have helped me along the way; certainly I wouldn’t know God as deeply as I have without them. But if had there been no trials, no tribulations, no struggles, I would never have known just how deep the love of my friends and family went. I have many “friends” on Facebook; most of which I’m more acquaintances with than anything else. But your true friends and family seem to come to light when your world is falling apart and they’re holding out a hand to help.
Happy Thanksgiving everyone! And God bless!