If Jeremiah 29 is stalking us...then James 1 is lurking somewhere in the shadows, waiting to finish us off. :)
In the past month, two different sermons and our devotional guide have reminded me (Aaron) that not only is God always with us, and not only does he always have a plan for our lives...but he is also -always- at work when we encounter circumstances and opportunities that grow and challenge our faith. Not only that, but such development and maturity are often essential for God's future purposes for our lives!
So without further ado, another passage that has challenged and inspired us lately:
"Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But when he asks, he must believe, and not doubt, be cause he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. " -James 1:2-6
Several things immediately jump out at me when I read these verses. The first, as I'm sure my little brother Alex can attest, is an old episode of the Christian radio drama "Adventures in Odyssey" called 'Count it all Joy!" :) Beyond that, however, I offer the following:
The joy that James is talking about is so pure, so big, that it doesn't leave room for any other (perhaps less noble) feelings or emotions; the trials ARE coming, so we might as well prepare for them; testing can (but does not necessarily have to) develop perseverance...it's up to us and how we handle things; perseverance leads to maturity and wholeness in Christ, through which he can use us to minister more holistically and effectively; the wisdom we need to handle trials the right way is freely attainable, but comes only from God; -and- God's response to our requests are perhaps most limited by our own doubts and self-imposed limitations!
That's a LOT to digest in one reading (or even many readings), but it's nonetheless heartening to be reminded that the God who creates, chooses, and calls us is also the God who encourages and equips us to deal with trials and temptations that accompany the fallen nature of humanity. Moreover, he is also the God who promises to develop, mature, and complete in spite of -and often because of- times of adversity. "And that," as J.R.R. Tolkien might say, "is an encouraging thought." :)
Hear now "God's Promise" from Week 7 in "A Guide to Prayer for all who Seek God": "Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, yo are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you wal through the fire you shall not be burned, and the flame will not consume you. For I am the LORD you God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior." -Isaiah 43:1-3 (NIV)
Thanks be to God!