When our cell met last night, we read from James 1: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.”
We are facing trials of many kinds. Financial worries, moral temptations, uncertain career futures, babies on the way, challenging relationships, recovery from addiction, difficult bosses, unfair laws, unmet emotional needs, and impossible goals like becoming the people God calls us to be. And we are seriously supposed to be joyful about this?
We decided that the “testing of our faith” generally involves a choice to either rely on ourselves alone and try to meet our own needs, or to seek Jesus in hope and trust. We told stories of moments when we were able to wait and pray, and were surprised to find that God does “give generously to all without finding fault.” There is a stream of deeper grace and imagination for ourselves and for our region that we are glimpsing.
It is not always possible to feel joyful about our struggles and I think that is OK. But I do see joy in becoming a people together that God is forming. There is joy in sharing our burdens, as we are able. (Like Annie cracking us up with a story here.) Carrying them together lightens the load and draws us into the redemptive movement of God. We are forming that movement, right in the middle of our struggles. Becoming “complete, not lacking anything” is not something we can do alone; we develop through love in action. As we exercise our faith by turning to God and coming together, we are gaining strength. God is giving us wisdom that leads to maturity, and the capacity to persevere. I look forward to sharing the communion table this weekend with such a trial-facing (vs. trial-avoidant) body of faithful people. I think we are powerful demonstration of hope in the world, even in moments when we don’t “feel” the joy.