Count it all joy, my brethren, when you meet various trials, for you know that the test of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
No one likes “trials”—none of us wants to end up in court. No one wants to go through the “trial” of a long illness. No one likes it when their patience is tried. However, “trials” of various kinds are part of our human condition, they are part of every human life. Some of the most devout Christians I know have endured very difficult trials, especially with illness.
Here are the ways that trials can be good. First, a trial helps you reprioritize what is really important. If you have to pare down life to the bare necessities, what are the most important things you do, who are the most important people, what are your most important possessions, and what is the most important use of your time? For instance, if someone told me I was going to die in a week, I’d definitely organize my week differently than the week I have organized for myself thus far. And I wouldn’t stress as much about the “little things” that in the end don’t really matter (and we stress out a lot about a lot of little things).
We are ALL impatient. Our instant gratification world is making us more and more impatient when we can’t have it our way and right away. A trial will test our patience even more. That can be a good thing.
One year for Christmas, someone gave me a gift certificate for a massage. So, when I went for the massage, I was so relaxed when the 90 minutes was over that I didn’t feel any stress. I also felt like I didn’t want to get up off the table. I believe that the relaxed state of my body, is a metaphor for what the state of our soul should be like. Getting a massage eased my mind of stress and put my body in total relaxation. The deep tissue massage was not blissful the whole time. As the masseuse worked out knots in my shoulders, that part was actually painful. But the result was relaxed muscles and a relaxed body.
Trials, metaphorically, can work the same way as the deep tissue massage. They can hurt, emotionally, spiritually, and sometimes physically. However, a trial, when approached the right way, can lead to relaxation of the soul. Because trials take focus off the “rat race” we all run and put focus on priorities—faith, family, health.
The way we should hope to go and meet the Lord is with a relaxed soul. The soul is shaped through trial, because trial produces steadfastness, or patience, as we read in today’s verse, and patience helps to take the anger and stress of life off the soul, and helps to focus the soul on what is most important.
Nothing that is of value in life does not come without some trial. If someone just handed us a college degree, it would have no value for us. The value of the college degree for us is knowing what we did, what trials we endured, in order to get the degree. Likewise in life, the ultimate goal is salvation. Salvation is reached through love, which is developed through patience, which is honed through trial. So if we approach a trial with patience, the outcome can be growing in love, which leads towards salvation.
Going back to the verses from today, St. James tells us to “Count it all joy, my brethren, when you meet various trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. (patience) And let steadfastness (patience) have its full effect, (because in developing patience) you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.
Being patient during a trial doesn’t mean to be a doormat or not to wish for a trial to be over. It is to embrace a trial for what it is—a temporary (even long trials are not for eternity) set-back or a temporary challenge—on the way to an eternal reward to those who make it through their trials with steadfastness and patience.
Lord, thank You for the gift of today, and all that it will bring. Thank You for the opportunities it will bring, even if those opportunities bring trial rather than triumph. In all my trials, please help me to have patience, so that by learning patient, I can love You and love others better. And so that in learning patience and love, I may take steps forward on the path to salvation.
Be patient today!