I think we all have a verse we often “go to” and find encouraging. Which do you find most encouraging? Mine is not the usual: Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. James 1:2-3 (NLT) I am drawn to this verse because it doesn’t sugar-coat things. We are going to face trials in life. We are going to have struggles. We can’t be sheltered, shelter our faith, or shelter our loved ones from trials in life. But there is good news, God gives us strength from our struggles.
You may have already heard the story of the trees in the Arizona Bio-dome. The Bio-dome was a project where scientists tried to produce an isolated and yet self-sustainable environment fully enclosed in a dome. There was a pond, fish, plants, and some trees. What they found however, was that after a few years some of the trees would mysteriously fall down. It turns out that inside the controlled bio-dome environment there was no wind, and without the wind to shake the trees, their roots did not dig in as deep or develop as well to help support the trees. The trees needed to be tested for their endurance to develop. The trees needed the wind to test them and push them to become stronger. The same is true of seeds planted indoors. Gardeners recommend that seeds planted in places where they are sheltered indoors be “hardened” before they are planted outside. Hardening involved placing the sprouting plants outside for an hour or two a day. As the plant is exposed to direct sunlight and wind, it grows stronger. Each day it is left outside for a longer period of time and after a week it will be strong enough to be planted outside.
When I think about some of the things I have gone through in my past I see how God formed me as well: my first job out of college was as a supervisor for a trucking company. I was a scared, shy, kid with little self confidence. Suddenly I was in a situation where I was in charge of 20 angry teamsters who wanted to argue and intimidate me because I was the one giving out job duties. It really challenged me and there were times when I didn’t want to be there or dreaded going into work because I knew there was going to be complaining and arguing. But after time, I realized how God used it to make me stronger mentally and able to diffuse angry people.
According to James, this happens with our faith as well. He breaks it down in verses 9-15. Being poor is a blessing because it makes you stronger. Being rich is a blessing because it is an opportunity to test your humility. If you can come through temptation, you will be stronger. Not saying to throw yourself into the path of temptation or trials; James makes it clear that although it is an opportunity to be stronger, that does not mean it is from God. But think of it this way, if we shelter ourselves from trials, will our faith have the opportunity to truly grow? Sometimes holding yourself away may be victory, but sometimes you need to have the confidence to address trials and temptations. When you do, consider it a blessing knowing you will come away stronger.