I’d heard it so many times, “My brethren, count it all joy when you face trials of various kinds, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” James 1:2-4
When we lived overseas, this verse should have been written on all of our prayer cards, each newsletter we sent, and stamped on our foreheads. Every aspect of life overseas seemed to require patience–as we stood behind others to fill our water bottles from the spring, as we endured closed windows in church while Sunday service dragged on, and as we waited in the fifth line of the day in the seemingly never-ending visa process. What more could my patience lack?
Four years later, however, my impatience still startled me.
“Honey, I’m sure I didn’t leave this glass here,” my Mom stated as she picked up the drinking cup she had just recently used for supper. My dear Mom, so full of faith and thankfulness, was aging typically, but my annoyed heart seemed like it hadn’t grown up at all.
“Lord,” I prayed, “Am I ever going to mature beyond this sin? Help me!” My frustration and guilt ebbed and flowed as if connected to the ebb and flow of her memory.
The hope that my soul craved came via Colossians 1:9-12, “For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding: that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, for all patience and long suffering with joy; giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light.”
The embedded connection between patience, long suffering, and joy struck me. My joy is not dependent on my patience or my perceived long-suffering, but it is laced within the very circumstances that require them. Life is never going to be free of the need for patience and endurance, so the opportunity to grow in them and in joy will always be present.
In my impatience with my mom, I recognize that God was teaching me joy while He was teaching me endurance and long suffering. I could let go, submit, and simply and thankfully trust His lesson plan. James 1:2-4 could stay front and center in my mind, but it didn’t have to chide me as I’d felt before. It could be my reminder that He is actively at work. Just as He saved me, I could trust Him to help me to grow. What joy!
When has His joy bubbled in you, or in another, during a difficult time?