"Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." James 1:2-4 (NIV)
"Why can't we just get past this?"
The agitation in my voice revealed the frustration in my heart. I just wanted to fix this relationship problem and move on to happy. My mind and heart were weary from the extended battle.
I'm a fixer at heart, especially when it comes to my kids. When I see one of them hurting or needing help, I want to make it better. Forget your cleats? I'll run them to school. Overwhelmed by a test? Let me help you study. Don't understand the instructions? We can figure them out together.
Since I don't like to see my children struggle, I imagine God as our heavenly parent feeling the same way about us. Unlike me, rather than trying to help us avoid struggles, God understands they are often for our good. As James 1:2-4 says, trials can be precisely the thing that makes us grow into maturity.
Too often when it comes to my kids, it initially seems kinder to step in and relieve the pressure. Yet more than once I have overstepped my bounds and done more harm than good. My help stunted them from gaining a new skill or needed attribute.
As hard as it is, as my children are growing up, I'm standing back when they wrestle a bit in order to allow them to fully mature. Handling troubles with teachers, working out schedules, and doing their own laundry have been areas where my kids have learned responsibility on their own.
Their struggle reminds me of the butterfly, wiggling this way and that until it is able to shed its cocoon. The fight allows the butterfly to gain the strength it needs to eventually spread its wings and soar once free of the cocoon. If the cocoon is split by hand, the emerging butterfly won't survive long.
Jesus, in His wisdom, knows we need the strength that can be gained from struggles we face as adults as well. Struggles to display love in our relationships, to trust Him with our kids' futures, or His provision when finances are tight. Our part during life's battles is to lean into these struggles, getting every ounce of learning and maturing we can. We may think of maturing as a stage a teen goes through. But in the original Greek this passage was written, maturing means "perfect or finished" and complete means "whole."
God uses difficult times to mold us to become more like Him. When life flows smoothly, it's tempting to go at it on our own. But when it is difficult, it is our reminder to run to the One who has the power we need to respond to life His way. As we do, our faith and level of perseverance will increase, which prepares us for the next struggle. All the while, we are becoming more like Him.
Scripture strengthens our resolve and fills in the overwhelming places as we trust God for the strength we need. Instead of begging to be let out of the trial, we can pray to grow in the trial.
Recently, I felt misunderstood and frustrated with someone I love. Opening my Bible, I asked the Lord to help me know how to respond like Him when I wanted to react in anger. The first verse I read after that prayer was Ephesians 5:1, "Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God." (NIV 1984) He could not have been more clear!
Scripture tells us when we look at our trials as instruments of training and learn from them, we will come out mature and complete. We'll be stronger than we were before—ready for all that God has ahead for us.
Jesus, I feel anything but joy in the middle of this trial. Open my eyes to help me see these hard times as tools to strengthen me and bring me to a new level of maturity. Help me see them as preparation to take me even further in You. Amen.
Reflect and Respond:
What area in your life feels like a fight? How could you partner with God to grow in both your faith and perseverance in this area?
Romans 5:3, "Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance." (NIV)
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