"Dear brothers, is your life full of difficulties and temptations? Then be happy, for when the way is rough, your patience has a chance to grow. So let it grow, and don't try to squirm out of your problems. For when your patience is finally in full bloom, then you will be ready for anything, strong in character, full and complete."
James 1: 2-4
In the midst of difficulties and temptations, when we have problems, and when the way is rough we are supposed to be happy! Ha! Difficult? Impossible? Idealistic? Who, in the throes of a physical, emotional, or spiritual crisis can be happy? How can we be happy when our depression is so deep that it immobilizes us? How can we be happy when the feeling of hot lead in the pit of our stomach denies us food and fellowship? Isn't happiness based on our circumstances?
No, happiness isn't based on circumstance. Happiness springs from our confidence and faith in the Lord. No matter what our circumstances, we can, by the miraculous grace of God, have a measure of happiness. I don't mean that God will replace sorrow with happiness or that He will automatically give us an easy time. Paul was not spared the whip, shipwreck, imprisonment, sorrow, grief, fear, or temptation. Neither shall we be spared the problems that are part and parcel of human experience.
As a matter of fact, there is reason to believe that Satan will do all in his power to bring difficulties our way. The closer we follow the Lord the harder Satan works to bring us down. Since he is the prince of this world he uses every trick at his disposal to do us in.
James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, was speaking from experience when he wrote to Christians. He discovered that hard times can bring growth. If we try to squirm out of our problems we'll be no farther ahead than when we started. But if we accept them as they come and look for God's hand at work we will most definitely come through a winner.
Paul said to thank God for everything. He meant everything. The roses and the thorns. The cherries and the pits. Hard times build character. They build strength. They build faith. They burn off the dross. They purify us for greater faith and confidence in the Lord. In relation to our witness, a Christian's experience is judged by the world on how he reacts in adversity.
Over the past ten years I have had my share of difficulties and temptations. I am in a "fiery furnace" at this time. I have not always been happy about the way the Lord has led me and in the intensity of the moment I was not always thankful. When I look back I am ashamed. I am ashamed because I see now the beautiful way that God supported me. I see how He used every situation in some way for my good. I see how He has been using circumstances to burn off the dross of my character. I see how He has been teaching me about love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self- control.
I have a long way to go yet in order to be conformed to the likeness and image of Jesus Christ. But based on past experience I know God is a loving Father. He has never let me down. My hope and faith grow stronger and stronger as I see His hand in everything. As I am able to get my eye off the tree and look at the whole forest I am happy in the Lord.