“My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing” (James 1:2–4).
THERE ARE CERTAIN PEOPLE WHO, RATHER THAN WORKING TO ACHIEVE GOALS, SPEND MOST OF THEIR TIME LOOKING FOR SHORTCUTS. Unwilling to accept the process that leads to a result, these folks are always angling for some advantage that will eliminate the journey and get them to the end of the rainbow right now.
Some students, for example, would like to know their stuff without studying. Some athletes would like to win the trophy without training their bodies. Some businessmen would like to get rich without investing their money. Some farmers would like to reap the harvest without working the field. Some soldiers would like to win the war without fighting the battle.
And some Christians, let’s face it, would like to be spiritually mature without going through the process of spiritual growth.
In reality, however, those who would be mature in God’s eyes must pass through some difficult stages. We’re a long way from where we need to be, and the destination can’t be reached without crossing the distance. It’s foolish (and dangerous) to try.
But here is the point: we should not only tolerate the process of growth; we should embrace it willingly, gratefully, and even joyfully. The process of spiritual growth involves no small amount of pain. But James says that we are to “count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.” The pain is not pleasant, but it produces something that is very pleasant, and for that reason we should embrace the process with joy. It is not too much to say that we should desire the process. We desire it because we desire what it leads to, and we are grateful for the manner in which God has deemed it best for us to get there.
It is sad to see a person who does nothing more than put up with today while he frantically looks for some shortcut to tomorrow. How foolish. Today is how we get to tomorrow! And if today is difficult, as it often will be in this world, we ought to do more than tolerate it. We ought to taste it deeply and give thanks for it.
“Everyone wants peace, but very few care for the things that produce it” (Thomas à Kempis).