Though they never seem like it in the moment, the hardships we face in life are truly a gift. But only if we allow them to be. Every time you face a difficult circumstance, experience deep pain, suffer a tragic loss, etc., endurance is worked in you (James 1:3). The word endurance (some versions say patience) can be translated as “a patient enduring, sustaining, perseverance”. James explains later in that passage that it’s this patient enduring and perseverance that leads us into maturity, to where we are perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. But something I noticed this morning as I was reading this passage is that James exhorts us to let patience have it’s perfect work. When we face trials and testing, we have a choice to let patience have its perfect work – to embrace that patient enduring, sustaining, perseverance through the pain of our circumstances – or not.
Recently I’ve experienced some trials that have faced me with this choice. For the most part I’ve chosen the road of patient enduring, but there have been moments where I’ve doubted that enduring was the best option – moments where I instead chose to build walls to “protect” my heart so that I didn’t have to experience any more pain than I already had. I mean, let’s be real here – when you’re going through something that is deeply painful and you’re told the process requires “a patient enduring, sustaining, perseverance,” you know it’s gonna be painful for another minute or two, and sometimes the thought of enduring more pain seems both impossible and contrary to the good that God has promised to those who believe in Him.
But what I’m finding is that every day I make the choice to let patience have it’s perfect work in me, I actually see and feel myself growing in maturity and love. I see and experience the fruit of the Spirit growing in me and coming forth from me. Does that mean that the process gets easier and/or less painful day by day? In some ways, yes, but in others, not at all. Pain is pain, and it takes time for pain to heal. One day I might not feel it at all, and the next I feel like I just got run over by a semi. What changes isn’t that the pain decreases – quite honestly I’ve found that the times I choose to embrace and endure the painful process, the pain actually increases because I’m allowing myself to feel it rather than shielding my heart with those “protective” walls. But the beautiful thing is that as I endure the hardship, this testing of my faith, as I choose to let patience have it’s work in me and I don’t run the other way, He gives me more grace to endure.
Having grace to endure doesn’t make the enduring less painful, but it makes the enduring more doable. When grace is given, the pain no longer seems impossible to bear, and I don’t feel like my world is shattered with no hope of restoration. When grace is given, it actually looks like finding joy and peace in the midst of the pain.
It’s a strange thing to be in the middle of the deepest pain and most confusing circumstances of your life and be filled with the deepest, most genuine joy and peace that you’ve ever experienced at the same time. But I can tell you from experience, it can actually happen. And not only can it happen, it’s actually supposed to happen. It’s the way of God’s kingdom. He gives grace when we are in need. His strength is made perfect in our weakness. He has given us His Spirit to strengthen us when we are weak, to intercede for us according to His good and perfect will when we have no words. It’s our portion to experience life, love, joy, and peace at all times as we walk according to the Spirit.
Whatever you’re going through, I encourage you to hold on. Let patience have it’s perfect work. Embrace the gift that a trial can be rather than allowing the enemy use it to kill, steal, and destroy.
“2 My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. 4 But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. ” James 1:2-4 (NKJV)
“7…a thorn was given me in the flesh… 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 7-10 (ESV)
“26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. 27 And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. 28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:26-28 (ESV)
“5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. 6 For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace… 9 But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you…12 Therefore, brethren, we are debtors—not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. 13 For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.” Romans 8:5-13 (ESV)
“22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control…” Galatians 5:22-23 (ESV)