Growth Through Pain
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
James 1:2 – 4
I haven’t been doing well the last couple of day. I jacked up my foot about a week ago playing Capture the Flag with the middle school ministry at the church. (In case you’re wondering. I led our team to a 2 – 1 victory that night, but I’ve paid dearly for it since.) But victory isn’t the focus of this post. Trial is. So back to the point.
Trials and hardship tend to bring out the worst in us. They catch us off guard and bring out what’s on the inside. Our secret doubts about life’s fairness. Our hidden fears about God’s goodness. Our anger, anxiety, bitterness and cynicism. Our selfishness. Our proclivity to control. All these things seem to bubble to the surface when the chips are down.
Most of us, don’t like what comes out of us when we face trials. I know this is true for me. I don’t like the way I lash out at the people closest to me or the stress induced headaches. I hate feeling anxious and annoyed. And yet, it seems these are the default actions I go to when life heads in an unplanned or unwanted direction.
And so lately I’ve been asking this question. Is there a way to walk through trials full of joy, hope and peace?
I was reading James 1:1 – 12 the other day. And I found some helpful and somewhat simple guidance. (Notice I didn’t say anything about it being easy.) Anyways, in James 1, God says he uses trials to shape character. In other words, trials exist to help us become the people God wants us to be.
The shaping of character doesn’t happen by putting our head down and gutting it through. Nor does it happen by throwing in the towel halfway through. So how is character forged?
God seems to say in James that it happens as we look up and make an intentional choice to be joyful, to offer him a surrendered will and to cultivate a heart that believe the best. I know this advice sounds simplistic but what if handling trials is simpler than we make it? What if it’s something even a child could do? What if we made the choice to be joyfully in hard times? What if we lived a God I’m trusting you as I walk through this valley of death kind of life? What if we cultivated a heart that believed God was allowing hardship into our lives to shape us into his image? I think if we made these hard but simple choices our trials would become some of the greatest catalysts for growth.