“Consider it a great joy, my brothers, whenever you experience various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. But endurance must do its complete work, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing.” James 1:2-4
This is a pretty well known verse, one we pull out often during times of trial or suffering. And it’s easy for me to read it, ponder it, and immediately set it aside for sometime in the future when I really need it, when I’m going through trials.
In fact, it’s sort of easy for me to romanticize this verse, to look at it and say to myself, “Gosh, when I go through all of those great trials God will send my way (because I’m such an awesome Christian and awesome Christians go through great trials), God will test my faith and it will be amazing because I’ll come out of it so much more mature and complete.” Am I the only one who does this?
When I read this the other day, however, I looked at it differently. I got stuck on the “various trials” part, and suddenly it hit me. This verse isn’t just about certain types of trials, big ones or crazy ones or really obvious, out of the ordinary ones. This verse is about various trials, all sorts of trials, including the little, nagging, seemingly inconsequential trials I encounter every day.
I’ve been pretty tired recently (can I get an Amen?), so of course that means I’ve also been pretty irritable recently. My house is never clean, the laundry is never ending, and I swear my dog is shedding excessively just to spite me. I get in these moods where my heart starts to race and I clench my jaw and I go into rage-cleaning mode, where nothing or no one is safe in my path. Somehow this always happens at the same time my toddler wants me to play catch with him, so he follows me through the house with his baseball and glove screaming “You ready? You ready Mommy? You READY??” as I race around in an attempt to rid my house of any remnant of mess. Being a mom is full of little tasks, ever-changing duties, and an endless cycle of caring for and cleaning up after little ones.
What I realized when I read this verse the other day was that right now, these are my various trials. They may not seem like much, but they are constant, and it matters how I respond to them. God isn’t calling me to joy in some far off, hypothetical trial. He’s calling me to joy now, in the little trials I experience daily.
If I reserve my biblical response to trials for those big, crazy trials that I expect to come my way in the future, I’m really missing out on an opportunity for my heart to be transformed. It’s in the little things that God will test my faith, in the little things that He will produce endurance.
So how can I work to consider it a great joy when my house is a mess and my toddler is screaming at me and my baby hasn’t slept and my German Shepherd is molting? It definitely comes back to prayer for me. The only way I can allow my heart to be open to anything other than anxiety in these moments is to stop and pray. I don’t do it nearly enough, but when I do, He is faithful to respond, to calm my spirit, to let me breathe, to remind me that no, the world is not ending because I have to sweep for the third time in one day.
When I pray, I’m letting God in. I’m saying to Him, “Okay God, here I am. I’m here, and I know you’re here, and I need your help.” Sometimes I think that’s all He wants us to do, just admit that we need his help. It’s so easy to clench our jaws and try to do it all by ourselves, but then we miss the chance to let God in, to let Him test our faith, to let Him transform us.