“Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.” (James 1:2-4 MSG)
This devotional is based on Kay Warren’s new book, "Choose Joy: Because Happiness Isn’t Enough."
We don’t get a chance to hide or pretend when the bottom falls out of our lives.
When we get bad news or a health scare, someone dies, or our finances collapse, all our great words about faith are worthless.
What matters is what we do in those circumstances.
The Bible says in the first chapter of James that our “faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors” during hard times. It doesn’t matter what I say about living a life of joy and faith. What I really believe is obvious to everyone —especially to myself — when bad times come.
So what do we do in those moments?
James 1 says to “consider it a sheer gift when tests and challenges come at you from all sides.” Another version of James 1 says, “Count it all joy, my brothers and sisters ...” I have to be honest: That’s rarely my first reaction! I can probably count on one hand the number of times I’ve been initially successful at considering hard times a “gift” or “counted it all joy.”
No, I’m like you. My first reaction is usually anger, despair, or bitterness — not joy or thankfulness for the “gift” of difficulties. When I react like that, I get disappointed in how far I still have to go to be a mature woman of God.
But that’s exactly the point James is making. We hate the process that makes us like Christ because it involves pain, sorrow, stress, and upheaval. Yet we all want the product: spiritual maturity. James tells us not to try and wiggle out of the hard times too soon. If we do, we will short-circuit the process and remain immature little babies.
I don’t want to be a spiritual or emotional baby. Do you? I want my faith-life to be sturdy and strong, mature and well-developed. I’m willing to let trials and troubles expose my faith-life so I’ll know to stay on the path until I’m finished.
I want my true colors to show.
Talk About It
- How have you allowed God to use your recent struggles to help you grow spiritually?
- What do you think it looks like to "count it all joy"?
Kay Warren co-founded Saddleback Church with her husband, Rick Warren, in Lake Forest, Calif. She is a passionate Bible teacher and respected advocate for those infected and affected by HIV and AIDS as well as orphaned and vulnerable children. She is the founder of Saddleback’s HIV/AIDS Initiative, author of "Say Yes to God," and co-author of "Foundations," the popular systematic theology course used by churches worldwide. She has three children and five grandchildren.