Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Truth about Tough Times

In spite of the fact that many today still falsely teach that becoming a follower of Jesus makes everything in life easier, the truth about tough times has been in God’s Word for a long time.  I could point to several different Scriptures, but none are more concise than some of the first few words of the biblical letter written by James.

Consider it all joy, my brothers, whenever you encounter various trials… (James 1.2).

He has more to say about what the trials do, and what we can do during trials, but before we even look any further, we should note that these few words make some glaring considerations.

1. It is certain that we will face difficulties.

The text says “whenever” you encounter various trials.  It does not say “if.”  Again, while many today paint a rosy picture of the Christian life, James is very clear: you will face trials.

2. Our difficulties will come in a variety of forms.

He proceeds to refer to the difficulties as “various” trials.  This means that they will come in multiple forms.  There is no way to predict what might happen, because from our perspective they will appear random, and will come in a variety of types.

3. Our difficulties may come suddenly.

His word “encounter” could have at least a couple of implications.  First, it appears that he is saying that there will be times when we come upon difficulties without any warning.  They will seem sudden, without any prior indication.

4. At times we will be surrounded by difficulties.

Another implication from “encounter” is that we may feel surrounded by troubles.  The old adage is that “troubles come in threes.”  But we all know some people who have difficulties that seemingly come in tens or twenties.  Sometimes we are encircled in trials, as if we had fallen into a pit, surrounded on every side.

You’re probably thanking me right now for the reminder of this gloomy-sounding prediction.

Very encouraging, huh?  But the reality is that Christ does not call us to Himself to merely temporarily escape the difficulties of this life.  No, He has far loftier plans, and that should encourage us.  He often lets us go through tough times, or even purposely sends us through them, so that we learn to trust Him more.  It’s about perseverance, which builds maturity in us (see vv. 3-4).  It’s called faith.  And yet, He doesn’t leave us hanging.  He tells us to ask for wisdom in trials, and then He promises to give it (see v. 5).

And ultimately He will grant the crown of life to those who persevere under trials and love Him by faith (see v. 12).

I’m thankful that God tells us the truth about tough times.