“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. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways. Let the lowly brother boast in his exaltation, and the rich in his humiliation, because like a flower of the grass he will pass away. For the sun rises with its scorching heat and withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beauty perishes. So also will the rich man fade away in the midst of his pursuits. Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.”
— James 1:2-12
In this passage, James is a faithful guide for us. He teaches us vital lessons which will be useful for the entire length of our lives.
God, in his infinite knowledge, knows us to be weak and feeble sinners — constantly thrown this way and that “like a wave of the sea.” So, when we weak and feeble sinners come to a monstrous season of trial and desperation, we ought not count ourselves as without any helps. For God, in his kind mercy, has given us these ten verses as a compass to lead us into joy.
This passage gives us five principles for succeeding in trials.
The first principle for succeeding in trials is that success must be measured by joy in God. Success should not be measured by own our foolish attempts to give a trial the end around. Rather trials are successful when they drive us to God to find all our joy in him.
The second principle for succeeding in trials is that we must understand why God brings us to trials. James says, “the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.” God brings us to trials that he might purify us — that he might sift out all the ungratefulness and distrust we have in God, for trials bring these things up from the bottom of our hearts and make themselves evident to us. James here implies that to learn steadfastness is to find all our joy in God alone rather than in our circumstances.
The third principle for succeeding in trials is that we must ask for wisdom in faith. James gives vision of a potential pitfall in trials. This pitfall is to trust in ourselves and our own ability to navigate the stormy sea of a trial. Trusting oneself is here contrasted with true prayer, which is the request of wisdom with full assurance that God knows what is best for us and will give it in his time.
The fourth principle for succeeding in trials is to put this world’s pleasures and comforts in their proper place. So often we forget to be heavenly minded — we think that this life is all we have and we do not have abundantly more awaiting us in heaven with God. In trials, we must remember that the earthly “flower falls, and its beauty perishes.”
The fifth principle for succeeding in trials is to embrace the promises of Christ. “Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.” The crown of life which God gives in the end is a reward for the steadfastness which God is producing in us now through trials.
In the end, we ought not forget that God ordains the “dark providence” of trials to bring us into closer communion with him. So James exhorts and teaches us to “count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds.”