We have each one gone through enough in life in realising that many things are obviously not obvious. Statements like, ‘This is a blessing in disguise’ tells us that there is more than meets the eye. James tells us, ‘Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds.’ (James 1:2). We ask ourselves, ‘Is James a sadist?’ How can we consider it joy – pure joy – when confronted with trials and tribulations? Quite apparently it seems, James must be a sadist. Again, what seems apparent is not that apparent after all. There is more than meets the eye because James goes on to say in the next verse, ‘Because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.’ (James 1:3).
Consider Jesus who went through all kinds of sufferings. And He went through it all, as it were, with His eyes opened. At the garden of Gethsemane, finding his disciples asleep, Jesus gave the revelation, ‘. . . See, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners.’ (Matt. 26:45). He knew that the hour of His impending death, after all the sufferings, is near at hand. Yet, He did not flinch from it. He pressed on towards His journey to the cross, because, painful as it may be, he ‘counted it joy.’ How do we know? Consider Hebrews 12:2:
“Looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”
For Jesus, it was the joy of making it possible for sinful man to be made righteous before a sinless God, whose eyes are too pure to behold evil (cf. Hab. 1:13). Thank God that in Jesus, we are made righteous before Him.
As we journey on in life, the reality is that we are bound to meet with differing degrees of challenges. Perhaps some of these situations may be even too painful to be brought out to the open. But it lays buried in the recesses of our hearts – buried, yet very much alive in causing pain. Can there be joy in the midst of suffering? Is there gold to be found in the dirt of pain? Yes, says James. Yes, says our Lord. Paul agrees with these words – we also rejoice in our sufferings, and not without good reason (Rom. 5:3-5):
‘Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.’
As we partake of the Holy Communion this morning, let us be drawn once again to the wonders of God’s love who did it all because of the joy that was set before Him. And if we are going through any form of pain or suffering, not knowing why, perhaps we can put our question differently and asks instead – what? ‘What is it Lord teaching me?’
I asked God. . .
I asked for strength and God gave me difficulties to make me strong; I asked for wisdom and God gave me wisdom to solve; I asked for prosperity and God gave me brawn and brain to work; I ask for courage and God me dangers to overcome; I asked for patience and God placed me in situations where I was forced to wait. (author unknown).
Elder Richard Lai