Consider it all joy, my brothers when you encounter various trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.
Consider trials JOY? What was St. James thinking when he wrote this? Upon first glance at this verse we might be tempted to wonder if the beloved Saint put in a few too many prayerful “all-nighters” because surely he wasn’t serious about feeling joyful when the washer breaks, someone you love gets sick, the fuel pump on the car goes out or the sweet teenager in your home eats the last piece of peach pie you were hiding…I mean saving, in the back of the fridge! Joy…I don’t think so! And what about the really big stuff like losing your job or serious illness, surely he couldn’t have meant those things could bring joy. I suppose we could sit down and make a list of all the trials that have happened upon us in the past month and we would be overcome with many emotions, none of which would be joy!
The real meat of this verse is the part that explains what we can get in exchange for our trials…stronger faith and perseverance. Do you remember when you were young and you went home from school and complained about that boy who pulled your pigtails or the girl who annoyingly pointed out your every move to the teacher? The standard reply from home went something like this, “Well honey, if they didn’t like you they wouldn’t tease you.” This verse has a little bit of that flavor to it don’t ya think! God promised that we would have trouble…it is a guarantee, not a possibility. Even though we’ve read those words more than once, trials still seem to catch us by surprise. We sometimes even cop an attitude and think, “What, me…why me Lord? What have I done to deserve this difficulty?” We might even get really sassy and say, “Oh, pardon me Father, but you’ve made a mistake, I’ve already had 8 serious trials this month, I believe this current dilemma belongs to the neighbor or even better, the guy who cut me off in traffic this morning!”
The simple truth is, if He didn’t love us, He wouldn’t give us trials at all. Each difficulty or disappointment that knocks on our front door or barges right into our day is an opportunity to grow in trust or compassion or patience. When we throw up our hands in despair and say, “Ok God, I don’t know how to do this…I don’t think I’m strong enough for this, please guide me and guard me and love me through it!” we will grow in faith and perseverance plus we will be blessed with grace and mercy. I think what St. James was teaching us is that any time we surrender to the holy power of God, that’s joyful, and the blessing is more strength, more grace and more faith for the next thing! It seems strange to thank God for the lousy stuff but that is what we are called to do. We need to act like we are completely aware that He is about to do a might work through that trial if we would just stand back and let Him take us through it.
A Seed To Plant: The next time a trial comes your way, stop and thank God
for it and ask Him to show you the joy in the situation. We’d love to hear your stories!
Blessings on your day!
Have you not made distinctions among yourselves and become judges...James 2:4
I wonder what I would read if someone were able to compile a list of the “top ten most confessed sins”. I wonder how my personal sinfulness would “measure up” against the list…would mine be bigger, smaller, spicier or dull in comparison. The truth is, sin is sin and because of Adam and Eve, we are all born to sin, classifying and comparing it doesn’t do us any good. I’m sure God isn’t going to cross check my sins against the top ten list and give me extra credit for committing only the most commonly recognized sins.
In the second chapter of the book of James, he writes about what I would imagine just might be on that top ten sin list; Judgmental Thinking! As a society, I think we tend to put things into categories and create levels and comparisons. That’s fine if you’re sorting nuts and bolts, organizing your kitchen pantry or sorting your sock drawer but when we start letting that comparison thinking bleed into our interactions with people, then we need to give these words from St. James a careful read. When we begin to “size each other up” based on appearance, possessions or position and align ourselves with those who seem “desirable” according to societies standards, we will always come up short! Unless we look through God’s eyes we’ll miss the parts that really matter.
My Grandma told me once that when you choose a husband; make sure you pick a man that will help you get to heaven. (I followed her advice to a T and just so happen to be married to one of the two greatest men on earth ...my Dad being the other!) That’s sound advice in any relationship. Just because we might judge someone to be wealthy, successful or powerful doesn’t mean they are faithful or Godly. If our goal during our time on earth is to get to heaven, someone’s fancy shoes, flashy car or impressive resume isn’t an accurate indicator of their ability to help guide us to our ultimate destination.
As humans our vision is narrow. St. James cautioned against judgment and condemnation because only God can see us as a whole. Judging others using society’s standards and human eyes is about as useful as picking out a new car by looking only at the door handles! On Friday, Catholics will celebrate the Exaltation of the Cross and the Gospel reading that day will remind us that God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world. John 3:17. If the ruler of the universe doesn’t condemn even the most sinful of us, that’s a pretty solid indication that it’s not a task that should occupy a spot on our to-do list.
As we let the words from St. James sink into our souls and re-shape our thinking, let’s remember to look at others through God’s eyes and each time we see a cross, recognize it as a symbol of our need to love and not judge or condemn. Maybe if we let the vision of the cross change our judgmental thinking that top ten sin list might drop to nine!
A seed to plant: Purposely put yourself in the company of someone this week you would not be in the habit of spending time with and share a kind and friendly conversation. It could be as brief as someone in the line at the grocery store of as significant as a trip to the soup kitchen...take down the walls of judgment and social classification and reach out! I'm willing to bet the blessing will be big!
Blessings on your day!
…“God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”James 4:6
Many Americans think about the 4th of July and conger up images of
fireworks, picnics, swimming and all kinds of family summer fun. I think of those things as well, but the 4thof July image that always blinks in my mind first; dirty roasters! For those readers not living here in Westphalia, let me interject. The St. Mary’s 4th of July picnic is a celebration of huge
proportion! Hundreds of folks come to town to celebrate and eat BBQ beef, gravy burgers or sausage and kraut. Pounds and pounds of meat are cooked and served that day, leaving behind a mountain of dirty roasters. As
you might imagine, an event this big requires the volunteer assistance of
everyone in the parish. For about 20 years, my work shift has been scrubbing roasters. I have never really minded the job because I’m an absolute wizard with a putty knife and five hour old, baked on gravy! (I have seriously considered adding this skill to my resume!) There is something to be said for doing a job and truly being able to clearly see the end result.
The truth is, I didn’t APPRECIATE my roaster scrubbing job until this year when I looked at it through different eyes. The eyes of a very holy and inspiring woman named, Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta. You may be wondering what a nun from India could possibly have to do with scorched sauerkraut! Well, here’s the connection; her entire life was dedicated to humble service to others. She did things nobody else wanted to do with people nobody else wanted to serve. She was able to sweetly find and serve God through each loving task performed for someone else’s benefit. Even after all she did for others; she consistently practiced acts of humility because it was through performing these acts that she was able to feel closest to God. Her favorite task to increase humility was to clean bathrooms. I don’t suppose there were any “scrubbing bubbles” involved either…it was a “roll up your sleeves, scrub the floor with an old toothbrush kind of cleaning.” That kind of humble service makes scrubbing those roasters seem like an afternoon by the pool sipping mint juleps!
We live in a world where we like convenience and service, but if we look at the words from the Apostle James, we quickly realize that God’s graces don’t stem from being great, important and served. His rich graces come from HUMBLE SERVICE done for others! When was the last time you completed a loving act of humble service for another? My mom said a million times as I grew up, “The greatest way to serve God is to serve others.” As each of those roasters were being cleaned, I called to mind someone who needed God’s healing, peace and comfort and taking my cue from Mother Teresa, the task was humbly and lovingly offered for their benefit. I fall so very short of her beautiful example, but people like her keep
A seed to plant: Throughout the upcoming week, purposefully complete at least one act of humble service for another person each day. It might be something as simple as picking up the stray paper towel from the floor of a
public restroom…nothing makes you feel greater than to humble yourself before your Father. Feel free to post a comment; we’d all love to hear about your homework!
Blessings on your day!
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