Hard times come. Life is not painless. Those who breathe feel, and those who feel hurt. So what are we to do in tough times? How are we to respond when the waves of ache and hurt come crashing down on us incessantly? First, we are to turn our gaze away from the shadows that are looming over us, and instead see that shadows are only cast when a great light is shining. Confidence and hope can be ours in the midst of the darkest moments because we know that God has not left us nor neglected us.
We must realize that God has not forgotten us under the jackhammer of trouble, rather, he is the one who is operating the jackhammer for our good. It is with this realization that instead of running in desperation and frustration in the midst of trouble, we should instead “count it all joy” knowing that God is working in us. But what is God working in us? James uses the word “patience” to describe the work that is going on. In this context, patience is not a blind, numb toleration of trouble. Rather, true biblical, spiritual, faith-filled patience is a forbearing endurance with faith and hope. True patience is acknowledging the trouble, but also acknowledging that God is in control and He can be trusted through the trial. It is resting in His character and enduring the trial because we know that He is good, and He is wise.
After teaching that we must have patience and joy in hard times, James issues a bit of a warning. “Let patience have her perfect work.” We must not short-circuit the working of God in our lives. The call of faith and hope in patience is one that transcends all the scope of circumstances. It is not good enough for us to be patient in one area of life and not another. We cannot choose to be patient when dealing with friends but not with family, or with finances but not in traffic. Patience has its work in every area of our lives, and we must allow patience to work in us at all points. But why should we have patience? James answers with, “That ye may be perfect and entire.” Put another way, those who grow in patience grow in maturity. By patiently enduring, we are actually maturing. God is working sanctification in us.
James then gives a couple of examples to illustrate those who endure trials and hard times with patience and those who do not. When trials come, there are those who like the waves on the ocean oscillate with faith and doubt. Uncertain of who God is, they fluctuate from trusting Him to doubting him. In their estimation, God is good, but their definition of “good” does not include hard times. Therefore when hard times come, they doubt his goodness. Trials are unbearable, and they don’t understand the character of God through them. James’s remedy to those who struggle to understand the character and nature of a loving God while in trials is to ask God for wisdom.
If His ways truly are above our ways, then perhaps we will not see directly at the outset of our trials how this hard time could ever be a good thing. As tears cloud the sight of our eyes, sorrow tends to cloud the sight of our minds. But God offers understanding. “If any lacks wisdom, let him ask of God.” And when trials have come, and we endure the trials with patience trusting God, we will enjoy the truth that James ends with, “Blessed is the man that endures trials.” Counting it joy in the midst of trials will bring joy at the end of the trial. And the trial will conclude. Even the darkest, most dreadful storms come to an end.
Food For Thought: Why do you think that some people do not remain patient through trials in their lives?