“Count it all joy, my brethren, when you meet various trials, 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
You know that feeling when you’ve been told,
“I’m sorry sir, your flight has been delayed for at least three more hours…” (kids are already bonkers and you’ve used up all your bribery options. You’re appalled at yourself...wishing, if only, the overpriced airport nicknack shop sold duct-tape)
“Yes, your dog might need eye surgery because the cleaner your son sprayed in his eye might have caused significant damage…”
(who says kids can’t be responsible dog owners?)
“Hey, it’s Mike from the garage...yeah...so...we’re not really able to figure out what’s wrong with your van until we open up the transmission and…”
(All I need to hear is, “transmission” before losing consciousness)
I hope you’re suddenly thinking something like…”Spare us your First-World problems already!”
St. James was not likely referring to carburetors or corn-chips when he wrote about, “trials.” It is more likely that he was speaking to Christians of the Early Church who stood a decent chance of being crucified, beheaded, or fed to some hungry lions.
I have to confess, this has long been a gripe of mine with my fellow Christian brothers and sisters. Nauseating! I’ve heard my brethren whine and complain about the most trivial things...and then I look at myself. Ouch! My, my, how the mirror can injure my own false self-image!
I must confess, however, that I have come to the point, thanks to God’s grace, that I see (almost) every event in my life (and yours) is a sign from God...I now (sort of) KNOW this and this is a huge step for me! Well, I might need to qualify that a tad bit…
But Our Lord does speak through every circumstance we encounter IF we ask Him for the grace to see our lives in such a way. In fact, Our Lord is always speaking to us even if we’re not listening.
Yes, if we’re honest, this is our typical orientation toward the “quiet whispers” of our God. But are we truly so faithless that we would not at very least desire to have Our Lord TRULY impact our lives...even IF it is often seemingly trying?
“If we are surprised that God foil our plans and lead us down a different road than the one we imagined, let us recall that it was the same in the life of the Blessed Mother. Mary also thought of her sanctity, her road, her mission differently. The one who gave up motherhood was called to an exceptional and unique motherhood. This call foiled all her plans. By responding to the Annunciation with her, yes, Mary did not fully realize was she was agreeing to. However, that did not diminish the value of her consent, which she later confirmed with her continual yes throughout her life. God so loved Mary that He chose this very harsh way of treating her. We know that this is the way He treats His friends. This is the best method for allowing the shaping of a person in the image of the Son of God.”
-Tadeusz Dajczer, The Gift of Faith, 3rd. ed. (Ft. Collins, CO: IAMF, 2012), 116
We know from other places in Holy Scripture our Lord seems to have it in, almost constantly, for His own people. But can this be a sign of love? Much like any good parent who administers the proverbial, “Yucky medicine!” Or the physician who lovingly administers that life-saving inoculation or surgical procedure. We need to see the acts of the Lord that we detest less as punishment and more for what they truly are, a sign of the faithfulness of Our Father to His beloved sons and daughters. This is how Our Lord opens our hearts to Him. We won't always like it.
If we learn to see differently, through eyes of faith, we will be truly joyful. It is this joy that can carry us through even the most terrible of circumstances. I pray for all of you who have read this...you also pray for me...that these truths may not simply continue to bounce off my thick skull and truly find their way to my/our hearts. I need the Lord to change me...I can’t do this alone.