Hasn’t 2020 been fun? Many have called this past year as “the worst year ever.” Someone named it the “Blurr of 2020.” The surging effects of the COVID pandemic, politics and cultural clashes have left us isolated, confused, and anxious. Many people are feeling overwhelmed. We can’t control what happens around us, but we can control what happens in us. We can decide to respond, rather than react.
So what does the Bible say about going through such difficult times? There is a strange passage in the Bible that aptly fits this year’s struggles. It is found in the first chapter of James. It goes like this:
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, when you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:2-4).
Here it is: We are to consider 2020 a pure joy! How do we do that?
1. Change your perspective
Yes, that’s what the Bible says. Even though our year was full of problems and struggles we are to REJOICE! I don’t know about you, but I consider it pure joy when I can avoid trials of many kinds. Yet, this verse says problems can bring a net profit, not a loss. That’s hard to believe.
Take time to consider what has happened. Seek God’s perspective. The word “consider” means to think deeply, to calculate or regard something based on reality.
Problems can bring a net profit, not a loss.
Pain can produce gain!
So, do the math! And the math reveals that pain can produce gain! We are to consider facing trials as “pure joy.” Pure. 100%. Through and through. Why? Because we know God is working. He is with us and has a divine purpose in every that happens (Romans 8:28).
2. Expect problems
James says, “when you face trials of many kinds.” Notice he does not say “if” you face trial, but “when” you face them. Expect them. The Greek word for trials is peirasmos means testing, hard times, examination. It says we can expect these to come in “many kinds,” which means multi-colored. That’s true of this past year. We have all kinds of losses this year. Some have lost a loved one. Others have lost a job or a business. We have lost a dream. We have all lost our freedoms.
It’s not if you face trails,
but when you face trials.
Don’t panic. Jesus said, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
3. Remember what it produces.
Trials are seldom from God, but God always uses them. James 1:13 tells us that God will not tempt us with evil. We are never to rejoice in bad things. But we can have joy knowing what it produces.
That’s what the passage says – there is a reason to have joy. It’s “because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:4). As we work through life’s challenges, God works to make us more like Christ (see Philippians 2:12-13; Romans 8:28,29).
Never be joyful about struggles,
but be joyful about what those struggles can produce.
Two clinical psychologists, Richard Tedeschi and Lawrence Calhoun came up with the term “posttraumatic growth” to describe the benefits of going through difficulties in life. According to their secular research, they discovered seven areas of growth that came from adversity:
- Greater appreciation of life
- Greater appreciation and strengthening of close relationships
- Increased compassion and altruism
- The identification of new possibilities or a purpose in life
- Greater awareness and utilization of personal strengths
- Enhanced spiritual development
- Creative growth
Isn’t that an interesting list? It confirms what our Bibles already teaches. We grow through difficulties. This is why we consider 2020 pure joy, just as James commands us to do.
BEFORE YOU GO
Take some time, as we start this New Year. Grab a journal and “consider” what has happened this past year. Here are some questions to reflect on (adapted from https://davekraft.org/).
- Which areas have you grown in because of the adversities of this past year (see the above list)?
- What can you truly be joyful about in the difficulties of this past year?
- Looking back, what was the overarching theme for the year?
- If you could go back to the beginning of this year, what piece of advice would you give yourself and why?
- How has the events of this past year changed me?
- What have the trials revealed about me? What idols or attachments have come into light?
- How have the trials and struggles of this year helped me mature?
- What has God been trying to do through me?
- Looking back over the year, what did you set out to do that you didn’t do and why?
- Which relationships in my life grew this year and which diminished?
- Looking to the coming year what do you believe God desire for you, your family, your work, and your community?
What other questions would you ask?
Happy New Year!