"Consider it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds." James 1:2
I don't know about you, but I definitely have a hard time considering the trials in my life to be joyous occasions. However, this is exactly what James tells us we are to do. A few months ago, I started doing a bible study on the fruit of the Spirit. There were many thoughts in my head when I picked this book up--I mean, who doesn't need more love, joy, peace, patience...--but I had no idea how much I would be affected and convicted and challenged by this study.
This week I am studying about joy.
First we were to read Acts 16:16-40 which recalls when Paul and Silas were put in jail because they cast an evil spirit out of a possessed girl. They were singing praises to the Lord from their cells when God sent an earthquake. As a result, their chains were released and the jailer keeping watch over them was brought to salvation.
Here are some of the author's words that really stuck out to me:
"From the damp, cold walls of another prison, Paul exhorted all believers to "Rejoice in the Lord, always. I will say it again: Rejoice!" (Phil. 4:4). Through his trials, Paul learned something I believe God desires for all believers to learn: the presence, purpose and power of God is best discovered through difficulty. How encouraging to recognize that Paul did not discover the strength to leave [or change] his circumstances; he discovered the strength to stay! Because he did, places for a jailer and his entire family were reserved in the Lamb's book of life!
Paul discovered that "to know Him" was greater than any loss he would suffer. Paul's joy in tribulation was motivated by his knowledge that the "best" of God's presence, purpose, and power was undoubtedly discovered in the worst of circumstances.
Are you willing to look for Him in the midst of your struggles?"
As I read through this, I was convicted by the way I can't wait to get out of a difficult season. I love comfort, ease, predictability, and I am a control-freak to some extent. So, when going through life, I like things to be easy, comfortable, predictable, and within my comfort zone. However, when things are that way, I am completely dependent on myself and my own ability to take care of things. I am self-sufficient and less likely to be pursuing the Lord the way I should be.
It seems to be a lesson that the Lord so kindly has to teach me over and over again. He allows me to be brought to the end of my rope so that I realize that I am not supposed to go through life without Him, without a relationship with Him, without being dependent on Him. That is not how I was created to function. There will be no satisfaction, no true joy in a life lived that way...at least not for me ;)
When Paul and Silas were in jail, they weren't sulking, they weren't throwing pity parties, they weren't trying to come up with some super-scheme to break out of prison. Instead, they sat contentedly and sang praises to God. They trusted Him. They knew they were in His perfect will for them. And, in that contentment, God showed up. Big time. Not only were they freed from their chains due to an earthquake, but the testimony of their faith in Jesus Christ and the testimony of their lives resulted in the conversion of the jailer who was watching over them.
God used their terrible situation to bring them closer to Himself, to teach them things, no doubt, but God also used their terrible situation to bring someone else to a relationship with him.
How encouraging to recognize that Paul did not discover the strength to leave [or change] his circumstances; he discovered the strength to stay! Because he did, places for a jailer and his entire family were reserved in the Lamb's book of life!
Heavenly Father, I need the strength that only you can provide to STAY and REMAIN and JOYFULLY TRUST you in this season of our life. Help me not to wish away the trials and the things that you desire to teach me through them, but give me the strength to remain. With joy.