“Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect work, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. But if any of you lacks in wisdom, let him ask of God who gives to all without hesitation and without reproach; and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith, without any doubting - for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord - he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.”
- Ya’akov (James) 1:2-8, TLV
Trials, challenges, tribulations, and hardships are sadly a part of the normal life of the believer. They happen to all of us, and usually they come to us when unexpected and from out of nowhere. At times they feel like small waves, causing both physical and spiritual disturbance within our lives and at other times these waves are more intense and feel more like a a tsunami of trouble or as a bombardment from the enemy. When our hearts are not firmly grounded in the Lord and His promises, and when we have by our choices, we have made Adonai our refuge and dwelling place (Psalm 91:9, CJB) we are better equipped to endure the struggles thrown in our path, yet despite the Lord’s refuge and shelter in the storm, the storms nevertheless come. Yeshua aptly warns us of expected hardship stating,
“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (Yochanan/John 16:33, ESV)
From Messiah admonition we are reminded by our Lord that as His followers, we would not only face hardship, but we should also expect it, but in these struggles, we should never forget that in the midst of our hardships, our immediate and lasting response should only be that which is grounded in His shalom!
Such struggles and hardship are also seen in way of persecution for our faith as promised by the Lord where He states in Yochanan 15:17 (CJB),
“This is what I command you: keep loving each other! If the world hates you, understand that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, the world would have loved its own. But because you do not belong to the world - on the contrary, I have picked you out of the world - therefore the world hates you.”
Here we are reminded that as believers in Yeshua, we should not only walk the path of shalom when we face hardship or persecution, but that we are enduring should trouble because we have been chosen by Him. This is clearly seen in the Acts of the Emissaries (Apostles) who when they faced unimaginable hardship and persecution on every occasioned rejoiced that they were found worthy to face such trials! In choosing to follow Yeshua they not only knew that trouble would follow their affirmation of faith and they welcomed it as a badge of honor for having been given the opportunity to bear even a small amount of the hardship that Yeshua bore on their behalf.
Yes, trials, challenges, tribulations, and hardships are in fact a normal part of the Messianic life - yet sadly our immediate response as believers is less than Yeshua’s will for us in the moment. We may immediately react with a “why me Lord,” or let it build up to explode on others around us, who at times may be the ones God has sent to us to lovingly comfort us in moments of need. We also sometimes blame God, and feel that He is being unfair with us, all the while forgetting the example of Job who when he lost everything alone declared in Iyov (Job) 1:21,
“Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will return there. Adonai gave; Adonai took; blessed be the name of Adonai.”
Certainly trials, sometimes insurmountable hardships come knocking at our door, but our cry for help and our initial reaction must always be to the One who loves us, has saved us, and can alone rescue us from our trouble and despair.
Even as I write this, it is Passover week where we recount the hardship and trial of our peoples under 400 years of Egyptian slavery. Yet even in the exodus, the words of God resound in our hearts from centuries past of hope and deliverance, where we read,
“I have seen how my people have been oppressed in Egypt and heard their cry from their slavemasters, because I know their pain.” (Exodus 3:7, CJB)
Here we are encouraged that even in the midst of our hardship, Adonai is attentive to our pain and that we are never alone. If is for this reason that Ya’akov above instructs that we should consider it ALL JOY when trials and hardship come knocking at our door and interrupting our lives. In the natural this may seem both counter-intuitive if not offensive for some, but that is only because we have willfully decided ahead of time to not place our attention on the one who has saved us and promised to meet every one of our needs. In this friends, we are reminded that often (and probably far more often than we think) that it is the Lord who has allowed such temporary hardships for the purpose of testing our trust in Him so that in the end it might produce within us endurance and that its perfect work would in the end result in Messiah’s perfect work in us.
Sadly however, we all too often make the choice of not seeing our short term and earthly afflictions through the promises of God, and the redemption that has been paid through Messiah’s loving sacrifice as our now risen, Passover Lamb. Although it may be a shock to some, the truth still remains that such trials can serve as a litmus-test to the authenticity of our faith and a call for us to lean into Yeshua more. To our shame, we as human beings place far too much stock in this life or the things of this world, forgetting that all these things will soon pass away and be swallowed up in glory.
Like a ship on a long journey, traveling toward home, in this life we face many, many trials. On this long journey we must all travail, winds, and wave crash against our lives as attack from the Adversary who seeks only to derail the work of God in our lives and our effectiveness in Messiah’s Kingdom. Even in the midst of this journey though, it is the Lord who is allowing this (for a season) so that we might be refined and perfected for His power and grace. It is not that the Lord desires to harm us, but instead refine us as each of us “sail” toward our final resting place in Him!
So, when the trials and hardships come - and they will - Do not embrace reaction and sin, but choose to REST AND EMBRACE PEACE through the wind and the waves, as Messiah Himself rebukes the tempest and declares over the storm in our hearts, “Peace Be Still!” (Mark 4:39)
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