2020 was supposed to be a year of clarity. Many people I spoke to near the end of 2019 said, “I want this to be a year of clear vision. I want to have 2020 vision.”
But with everything that has transpired this past year it feels like a year of disaster. This has been a year of hardship, people dying, pandemic challenges, economic turmoil, natural disasters, racial tensions, and dealing with regular life trials. It has not been a good year. Some people would say they feel their vision is blurred.
Yet, perhaps what is going on right now is moving us toward clarity.
In the Bible, James 1:2 tells us that we need to consider it pure joy whenever we face trials of any kind. What does James mean by trial? The word trial means an unwanted or unanticipated event in our life. We can say that this has been that kind of year, a time of unwanted trials.
Where do trials come from? Trials can come from Satan - who wants to make us discouraged. Satan wants us to fail, stay in sin, and give up on life. Or trials can come from God. Sometimes God is allowing us to experience hardships. For example, like the time God allowed Job to face family, money, and health loss. But no matter where the trial is coming from James says, we should have joy.
Why? Because James says the testing of our faith is producing perseverance. This word perseverance means to have a steady, constant, or staying power under adversity. It actually also means hope. There is this idea that despite what we are going though we are learning to be perseverant. We are leaning to have hope.
Therefore, we can look at our trials differently. Think about it. Without sickness, or marriage problems, or pandemics how are we suppose to learn how to remain strong and steadfast? How are we suppose to know what we are made of if we don’t go through trials? How are we suppose to develop this spiritual muscle of hope if we don’t go through hard situations? James is saying we should rejoice. We are learning to be perseverant.
He also says that perseverance must complete its work so that we are mature and complete. What does it mean to be mature and complete? It means a character without defect and is a person who lives in obedience to God. God is using everything in our life to make us more and more like him. Life is not about the absence of pain, but rather it is through our trials that God is weeding out the bad in us so that we become Christ like. Conflict in a marriage helps us to learn our personal flaws, sickness in our life causes us to depend on God, financial problems makes us realize that God’s our provider, death reminds us that this is not our home.
James says whatever you are going through he says count it all joy. Count your pain, tears, uncertainty, as a time where God is making you perseverant and complete. Without the trials in your life you would not learn to be hopeful.
So maybe 2020 has been a year of clarity. Maybe through all that we are going through as a world and individually it is making us stronger and not weak.
What the world calls as a misfortune, we who believe in God, can call it a time where God is doing something for his purpose and is making us better and stronger. We may not like the trial we are going through but as we go through it we are changing and so is our perspective on it. Rather than sadness, anger, disappointment, or rage, James says consider it joy. Maybe it’s time to shift how we look at our problems and have joy in it and remember that God is working through it to make us perseverant, complete, and mature.
To watch the full sermon on this topic please click here.