Joyful in Trials

I know you may be thinking that the title of this blog is a little ironic. I thought of this as absurd despite the fact that James 1:2-4 tells us,

“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” –  James 1:2-4 ESV

My problems

I definitely don’t feel joyful when I am going through trials or difficulties. I went through what I considered a rough time for the last two weeks or so. I didn’t really see how the above verse was true to my situation until yesterday.

I’m sure not all of you reading know this, but I have great difficulty with my speech that makes it difficult for me to be understood. I do have a device to help me speak but I can only use it when I’m in my wheelchair. Luckily, for the last two years, I haven’t had changes in my nursing coverage. So, I mostly had nurses who knew me when I could speak well. As my speech slowly got worse, they slowly started to understand my new speech patterns.

Unfortunately, my primary day nurse stopped working with me a few weeks ago. This left at least five shifts open. The other day nurse has been working those days until at least one or two other nurses can permanently work the open shifts.

I have anxiety and worry when I have new people work with me, to begin with. I have had a few bad experiences with new nurses over the 22 or more years I have had nursing care. So I am a little apprehensive with new people.

But now, on top of learning my routine and limits, the nurses have to get used to my speech also. I have had frustration with my speech ever since it got bad. Sometimes I even take it out on others or at least get short tempered with those not getting what I’m saying.

Since I started going through recovery I have become better about this. Part of that recovery meant that  I’ve started being more consistent in my relationship with God by staying in the Word and doing devotionals.

I was doing everything I could on the days new people were training and working to stay calm and at peace. A lot of meditation and prayer was involved. Despite this I still had frustration but it was less than it would have been a year ago. I handled stress better. There were days that I felt like my endurance and patience were pushed to the limit.

Looking at things objectively

I didn’t see this as a trial because I always assumed that James 1:2-4 was referring more to things like persecution for our faith. Then yesterday I was reading a devotional and decided to look up some of the words in the verse in Strong’s Concordance. The word trial in this verse actually means “adversity, affliction or trouble.” The concordance further defines trials as, “sent by God and serving to test or prove one’s faith, holiness, character.

My situation was definitely testing my character in the area of patience and peace. I thought adversity, affliction and trouble sounded much rougher than what I went through. So, I looked these words up in the dictionary.

From this devotional, let’s take personal inventory.

adversity: (a state or instance of serious or continued difficulty or misfortune): Yep.

affliction (a cause of persistent pain or distress: Yep.

Trouble ( to agitate mentally or spiritually :  worry, disturb):  Yep.

Continued difficulty? Yep.

Persistent distress (pain or suffering affecting the body, a bodily part, or the mind): Yep.  Not to mention the exhaustion I have experienced.

Was it testing my faith? Yes, it was testing my faith in the fact that God is with me through all circumstances. Testing my faith that God would get me through this. God would guide me and give me the discernment to know if the person would be a good fit.

James also says that the testing of my faith produces steadfastness. Other translations use perseverance or endurance but they all have very similar definitions.

New List:  Goals that God has for me

steadfastfulness: firm in belief, determination, or adherence

perseverance: continued effort to do or achieve something despite difficulties, failure, or opposition

endurance: the ability to withstand hardship or adversity; especially :  the ability to sustain a prolonged stressful effort or activity

My endurance was definitely being worked on and developed. I couldn’t tell you how many times I had to repeat myself before being understood. The more time that went by people began to understand me more and more.

In James 1:4 we are told to, “Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything ~ NIV.” Some translations say perfect instead of mature. After a trial we aren’t suddenly perfect but the trial is to be used to make us closer to the image of Christ.

You may be asking where joy comes in. The joy is in understanding that whatever trial you are going through is a chance to be more Christ like. A chance to develop character so that you will better be able to show Christ to others. We are after all called to make disciples.

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,  and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” – Matthew 28:18-20 NIV

I am not good at seeing my trials in this light. I know it to be true but it seems like that knowledge completely escapes me in difficult situations. I whine and ask God why he’s doing this to me. In reality, most times he isn’t causing the difficulty but rather using the difficulty to give us the opportunity to grow. I say opportunity because we do have a choice. We can choose to complain and insist on doing things our own way. Or we can choose to draw closer to God so we can see what he’s trying to teach us or what attitude he is trying to adjust.

I had to choose to see what God was trying to do in my trial. I had to choose to see that he was working to develop within me patience, peace and trust. I needed to trust him to get me through every single day and hour some days. I also needed to have peace because it is very difficult to be patient when you are full of turmoil and worry. It’s just as hard to trust God and others.

—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.

Do everything without grumbling or arguing,  so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life.

 So you too should be glad and rejoice with me.  ~ Philippians 2:12b-16, 18 (NLT)

I hope the next time I go through trials or difficulties I will choose to count it all joy.

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