“Consider it pure joy, my brothers when you face trials of many kinds.” (James 1:2) The first time I read this verse I thought that the author had to be insane. No one wants to hurt. To see someone you love helpless in pain or agony isn’t a pleasant thing. It is human nature not to enjoy suffering. Why then would the author of this verse make a statement like that? This verse used to be an enigma to me, but in recent trials I fully grasp the meaning of it.
I can recall 2 1/2 years back, on my first day of high school, when my assigned seating in Geography class landed me beside Josh Nelson. Josh and I had known who each other was since third grade, yet we didn’t know anything about each others true self. Who could have foreseen that that mild acquaintanceship would evolve into an unbreakable brotherhood. Throughout the course of our freshman year Josh and I got to know each other on a more personal level. We seemed to somewhat be at the same place in our walks with God. The closer we got to God the closer we were drawn to each other. Over time we became accountability partners, best friends, and even brothers. Any problem that came our way we were able to conquer with the help of God and one another. Then something unexpected happened…Josh got leukemia.
Naturally, I wanted to ask why. My thoughts were, “His mom already has it. Isn’t that enough?” The ironic thing is that Josh, the one person who definitely had an excuse to question, showed me I was wrong. He shocked me with what he said. His words were, “I wouldn’t trade this for the world. God has a plan and it will shine through.” I couldn’t understand what would cause him to make a statement like that. He clarified by telling me that his eyes had been opened through this humbling experience. That everyday is a gift from God, and we are not promised tomorrow, yet we walk around doing things our way on our own schedule. There are two very simple reasons that we are on this planet. They are “to know Him (Jesus Christ) and to make Him known.” That should be our primary focus. Josh explained to me how often we seem to get so lost and caught up in ourselves that we miss out on God’s plan. He could not wait to get out of bed and back in school just so he could share his faith with others. He also told me how his having leukemia is just another way for God to be glorified. He was sincerely thankful that God had chosen to use him as a tool to advance his kingdom and to be a source of inspiration to others. It shocked me. Here is a boy bedridden with cancer, yet he is thankful. I found that through Josh’s eyes being opened mine had been opened.
These times are a struggle to me, yet I have learned something from them. God uses the challenges we face to shape the character within us. If we chose to respond to trials by leaning on God for guidance and letting him carry us through them. Then we will come out of them with a much deeper relationship with Him, more wisdom, and more strength. A coal is turned into a diamond under intense pressure and heat. In the same way we are formed into God’s image in the hardest of times. Another thing I have learned is that God will not let us down. The darkest of times are the most ideal for God to show up. In the book of Daniel Shadrach, Meshach, and Abendago stand against a King and an entire nation to remain loyal to God. They are unwilling to worship a false idol and the penalty for that is death. When the King peers into the furnace he is amazed. Not only are the three men walking around in the core of the inferno, but there is a fourth person there…God. When we are in critical times, if we have faith, God will show up, deliver us, and be glorified. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abendago had faith in God and because of that God was glorified and a nations eyes were opened to the truth. Because Josh has had faith in God in this present situation, I can step back and see God’s hand at work. Already there have been people led to Christ, stronger unity in multiple families, and unbelievable renewing of minds. The great thing is, God is still working.
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:2-5) Josh has been my role model through all of this. No matter what has been thrown at him, he has taken it head on. He realizes that this is a test of his faith. That as he goes through this he is being formed into the man God wants him to be. From where I have stood through this I have been able to watch Josh change. He is continually growing into an image of Jesus Christ. All because he has faith in God. The amazing thing is, through this trial I’ve seen myself and other grow into stronger Christians. For these reasons you can find joy amidst trials.
Right now, as I look across this hospital room I’m sitting in, I see a young man who once weighed 175 pounds of muscle and had a full head of hair. Now weighing 140 pounds with sparse patches of hair across his head. He’s fast asleep with an oxygen mask on and multiple tubes connected to him, but I see through that. I see a man of God willing for God to complete his work in him and through him. No matter the cost.