Do you find yourself struggling to focus during these trying times? Is it becoming easy for you to just move aimlessly through life, without focus on your purpose and God’s plan? Is your faith being tested?
A friend had just finished getting her house ready to put on the market when she received a cancer diagnosis. As she juggled doctor appointments, surgeries, and home showings with managing her middle school son’s education and doing her full-time accounting job from home, she was feeling overwhelmed. Mother’s Day Church was virtual that Sunday. The sermon text was James 1, which describes how believers should face their trials.
The key words in James 1:2-5, 12 include joy, faith, perseverance, mature, wisdom, and blessed. Knowing that this sermon had really helped her to reframe her situation, yesterday I gave her a shirt that I made with those words on it that she could wear whenever she grows weary in the struggle. Hours after I gave it to her, the offer on their house was rescinded, and it was hard for her to find the joy in the situation.
This morning I went for a four mile run. These days, I say “run” loosely, as I recently suffered a fibular stress fracture. During recovery, my body apparently forgot how to propel itself forward for more than five minutes. This run replaced a canceled four mile race that was scheduled in April. I wanted to do well because I would need to post my route and time on the Atlanta Track Club site. The first mile was a nice warm up, but in the second mile we had to wait at a few crosswalks and I lost momentum each time we stopped. My second mile was slower than the first. Although I walked a bit through that second mile, I was able to carry on a conversation with my running partner through the third mile and get back up to speed. She began to speed up in the fourth mile, and my first thought was to make an excuse and walk out that final mile. But then the words of these verses came to mind. I began to tell myself, “You can rest when you’re done. You’ve done this before. You can do it again. Persevere.” How could I ask my friend to have joy when her faith is tested by serious trials, when I don’t have the perseverance to finish the four miles I had set out to run today? James 1:12 reminds us that “Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial . . .” As I considered the blessings that come from pushing through the trials of life, I began to run faster. I forgot my momentary troubles and began to spend the time praying for my friend to find her joy in her trials. I prayed that God would bless her and keep her, strengthening her body, mind, and spirit .
"I began to tell myself, 'You can rest when you’re done. You’ve done this before. You can do it again. Persevere.'"
The blessing that comes from perseverance is the prize that Paul describes in 1 Corinthians 9:24-27. During this time of trial, don’t sit down and rest spiritually. This is the time you should be training your mind and spirit, not running aimlessly, but focusing on the joy that comes from faith that is tested and shown to be mature. Take your eyes off of the temporary setbacks and minor struggles to pray for others’ joy and faith. What would it mean for you to go into strict training to get the prize of blessing that comes from persevering under trial? What is one step you could take to reduce aimless running and focus on the direction and distance God wants you to go in your faith?