I’m not always a happy-go-lucky guy. In fact, I’m downright perturbed at times. This morning, I am thinking deeply about some of the facts within my life. To “count it all joy,” as it says in James 1:2-4, is not always a realistic thing for me to accomplish.
My heart is full of real struggles, many emotions, and a loving relationship that is communicated through prayer and keen attentiveness to His Holy Spirit. Jesus was real, and when in the flesh He experienced real emotion. He knows every struggle I have experienced. But, I’m not Jesus. I try to follow Him, but this world has a lot of pull. It is just hard to be human at times. The faith in which I live by is often polluted by the world and the things that it creates. It often tears me into shreds and leaves me very far from His promises. In the middle of a trial, I sometimes do not see the joy on the other side of its lesson.
A lesson. I call it this because that is how I see it. I will eventually learn why I have experienced a difficult season. It has been this way for some time because of a conscious effort to observe my life from a view outside of myself. It is a practice that I developed over the past several years which has helped me see exactly what is going on within, and outside. I’m observing a few things that are troubling me. My wife’s health. The relationship with my parents. The insecurities that I have. Honestly, these things make me ask the great Creator of the universe what it is that He is doing? “What for?”
Is this pain that we experience really necessary? All of these trying times and situations that cut me into a diced pile of pity and emotion, destroying body and mind, am I really supposed to “count it all joy?” I don’t have a lot of joy going on when my wife can barely walk because of her rheumatoid arthritis, and no medicine is touching it, and I damn sure don’t consider it joy when my dad has instilled deep-seated emotions in me that have formed over a lifetime that makes me want to beat him like he did my mother, and that still cause problems until this day.
No, I don’t count it all joy.
Some things are very difficult. But with a few things that are being said within my writing this morning, I still keep my faith in Him. It has been very obvious throughout the years that there is a great force outside of myself that is in control. After many years of searching for the source, it has come down to Jesus Christ. He has worked in my life and shown me things that have given me total faith in Him. So, I trust Him. I don’t like how it all has to be, but I trust Him. That is what, in part, “living by faith and not by sight” means to me. I choose to live according to what God reveals to me, rather than trusting my own understanding (Proverbs 3:5-6). In the meantime, I honestly have a hard time doing it.
When Jesus was tempted by the devil in Matthew 4, He was not shaken. I am. I am spending my time in a fallen state. In my flesh, I am being tempted by the devil everyday, all day. The devil’s playground is my mind. When I am in my places that are not of the Lord; my anger towards situations, the anxiety and stressors that bring physical and mental pain, I am learning to call upon Him. The progress is a life-long process. My patterns of behavior have always been very unhealthy up until several years ago. They still linger. They still “lead me out into the wilderness to be tempted.”
To be like Christ is a place that is beyond reach as we travel through this physical world. We can fight our way through, and the armor that we wear as we fight differs for all of us. Some may wear full armor, carry a shield and use a sword made from the strongest steel, while others wear cloth, and battle with hands. The more time we spend with someone we love, the more our relationship grows, and the more we learn about them. As I spend more time with the Lord, my resilience, understanding and steadfastness increases. But, the crafty devil knows just where to slip into my armor at times. When he gets in, the cancer grows. The damned struggles of this life become difficult to swallow. I know this. At times, my patterns of thought have made it difficult to keep this in my heart, and mind. Being human sucks, and at times, so does being a Christ-follower.
So today, I will focus, refocus and focus again on the author and finisher of my faith. My Lord. He can hold the universe, and He can hold me. Today, I will think on these things…
James 1:2-27 ESV
Testing of Your Faith
2 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
5 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. 6 But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. 7 For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; 8 he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.
9 Let the lowly brother boast in his exaltation, 10 and the rich in his humiliation, because like a flower of the grass he will pass away. 11 For the sun rises with its scorching heat and withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beauty perishes. So also will the rich man fade away in the midst of his pursuits.
12 Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. 13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. 14 But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. 15 Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.
16 Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. 17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. 18 Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of first fruits of his creatures.
Hearing and Doing the Word
19 Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; 20 for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. 21 Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.
22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. 24 For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. 25 But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.
26 If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. 27 Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.