Was James writing his letter for the sake of a precious 12-year-old girl? “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance” (Ja. 1:2-3). Hundreds gathered in Portland, OR this week for a memorial of a life well lived. Jolene Grace endured over five years of trials that many of us would not have endured as well. And instead of allowing it to embitter her, she found and then spread pure joy. Her dad wisely shared, “When I grow up, I want to be like Jolene.” Not many eight to twelve year-olds would come home from chemo or other procedures to make muffins, cookies or other baked goods to share with those who prodded and cared for her. Neighbors came by to thank the family for flowers they had found on their porch steps that had been placed there by her hand. She prayed for and lived for so many. She learned the secrets of life in Christ that were not offered in any of my practical theology classes. She allowed God to create His character in her life. Those of us who got to know her must choose to allow our lesser trials to transform us, or to ignore the surgical procedure God longs to perform on our hearts.
The apostle Paul shared a similar thought along with an additional promise: “Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope” (Ro. 5:3-4). Many of us suffer more from a lack of hope than from the depth of our trials. In fact, we gather together and separately pray for our trials to be removed. We give a deaf ear to God’s promise, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Co. 12:9). We fill our prayer journals with petitions for all of our loved ones to be spared from suffering, giving little or no thought to beseeching the Father to use those trials to impart wonderful blessings that are not available any other way.
What would happen in the body of Christ if we would pray for God to use the trials we face to create God’s nature within us? How will our lives be transformed by the resultant perseverance, character and hope that is being infused into our nature? How will the kindness of God in Christ better display itself in His body that still remains on the earth? If we would ask for God to create Christ within us, then we could pray for our brothers the way John prayed for Gaius: “Beloved, I pray that in all respects you may prosper and be in good health, just as your soul prospers” (3 Jn. 2). Unless we have allowed God to create His likeness within us, we really don’t want to have our physical well-being reduced to the level of our anemic spiritual health.
Dear Lord, whatever You have to do to make us more like Jesus –do it! Break my resistant heart. Create in me Your clean heart. While I do not ask for suffering, help me to learn and grow from it in ways that glorify Your Son.
Because He lives,