Is James really serious? I mean does it make any sense at all to to be happy when hardship and difficulty comes our way. No it does not. And that is not what James says. He says, rather, that we should rejoice when we go through tough times. Big difference! No doubt you have heard it said that our happiness depends on our happenings – our circumstances, which more often than not we have little or no control over. But our joy is dependent on our relationship with God and our understanding of His purposes for our lives. God is not concerned so much for our happiness as He is with our holiness.
Here are 3 quotes from Tim Keller’s book Walking with God through Pain and Suffering that I have found helpful – and a few comments to go along with them.
- “Christianity teaches that, contra fatalism, suffering is overwhelming; contra Buddhism, suffering is real; contra karma, suffering is often unfair; but contra secularism, suffering is meaningful. There is a purpose to it, and if faced rightly, it can drive us like a nail deep into the love of God and into more stability and spiritual power than you can imagine.” – (contra means “in contrast to”) Verse 4 of James chapter 1 goes on to say, “Perseverance must finish its work so that you can be mature and complete not lacking anything.” Scripture is full of story after story of how God has used suffering in the lives of His people to bring about His purposes. When we understand that there is a purpose to the difficulties that we go through then they become endurable.
- “Suffering is actually at the heart of the Christian story.” – Our redemption was brought about because Christ was willing to endure the suffering of the cross on our behalf. Because He suffered and personally took upon Himself the wrath of God, we will not have to experience the agony of eternal damnation.
- “Suffering is unbearable if you aren’t certain that God is for you and with you.” – One of the great promises of Scripture is that God will be with us. He will be with us in the good times and He will be with us in the tough times. He has said that He will NEVER leave us or forsake us. Suffering is always easier when you are not suffering alone.
Suffering is hard. I don’t wish for it. I don’t pray for it. I’m not looking forward to it. But I know that it will happen because we live in a world that is suffering from the consequences of the Fall. And I do recognize that God can use suffering in our lives to bring about good for us and glory for Him.