Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters,
whenever you face trials of many kinds,
because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.
Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
If I saw an infomercial offering me pure joy,
I'm not sure I'd be interested in calling the 1-800 number if this is what the guy was trying to sell......
trials of many kinds.
I can just see the slick-backed hair and huge grin of the guy on the TV promising me "pure joy" for just $19.95 and the testing of my faith.
I can hear him talking about how this testing will produce in me some kind of perseverance....
And if I can just let this perseverance do what it's got to do to get me to the end of the trial,
I'll be mature and complete!
Yes, I will lack nothing!
I sometimes think this is how the world views the promises in the Bible.
Maybe that's why they often react by clicking the remote to another channel....
"No thanks, God."
"I'll just lack something instead."
And then they fill up that" lacking" with all kinds of empty things that end up leading them into all sorts of other messes.
Eventually, they end up right back on the once-not-so-enticing infomercial channel,
and hopefully the longing deep inside them is so intense that they see through the devil's attempts at making this offer sound like it's coming from someone who only wants to make a buck.
James isn't a slick-back TV personality.
He doesn't have a hidden agenda.
In fact, he is the earthly brother of Jesus, and he walked a long road of denial and shame and confusion before he finally accepted that Jesus was not just his crazy brother who thought He was the Son of God.
James finally got it.
James finally turned around one day and realized that Jesus was the real deal,
and in believing,
James had a choice to make.
Either follow his brother, the Savior,
walk away and reject salvation.
James chose to follow and the price was much more than $19.95.
His whole world turned upside down and he became one of the leaders of the early church.
He understood persecution firsthand.
He understood rejection firsthand.
He faced trials of many kinds and discovered that when he did,
God gave him something he'd never had before.
Now, I don't know about you, but when I discover something that excites me, brings me happiness, makes my life easier,
I want to share it with all of my friends.
Whether it's a new recipe (please don't laugh - there are a few things I love to cook) or a book I've read,
I talk about things that I love or believe could help someone else.
And I want to say this today.
I believe James 1:2-4 promises something worth the cost.
I would offer to do this infomercial for God even if I had to slick back my hair (which would not be pretty....I promise).
I have endured some heart-wrenching trials.
If you have walked the road of life with me very long,
you have seen me cry until I can't stand on my own two feet.
I've been flat on my back with a rag over my eyes and friends all around me trying to offer some sense of encouragement when words were meaningless but their presence was desperately needed.
I've thrown things.
I've hit things (not people, but things like steering wheels, walls, doors....).
I've been at the end of it all time and time again when our neighbor confirmed that our daughter was not going to breathe again, when the doctor walked in and gave bad news time and time again, when the cancer overcame the treatments and we were forced to say bye to our son.
Yes, I've had my heart torn apart enough to make me wonder how it's still beating.
And I still cry.
I still question.
I still wonder why.
But, I also persevere and in this perseverance God has worked some sort of miracle.
Because, in spite of all I have been through,
I have pure joy.
Not that I wouldn't change everything if I could.
Believe me, I'd write a different story if I could write my own.
But, I can't.
here's the deal.
I either choose bitterness or joy every single day of my life,
and maybe it's pride, but I just can't let the devil win at this point.
He's not stealing my joy.
God has Adrienne.
God has Nick.
That's my prayer for all my kids when their time comes (And Lord, please let it be after me), so how can I be sad when I know that two of my children have run their race and won their prize??
This doesn't mean that I don't have days when I feel blue.
Just last night as I was working on a project that involved going back in time to reflect on words I wrote early in my grief,
I found old emotions stirring and I went to bed feeling sad.
I miss Nick so much that sometimes I can hardly stand it.
But, at the end of everything, I believe God has given me pure joy to fill every little crevice in my battered heart.
I laugh again.
I laugh sometimes until it hurts.
And I know that this laughter can only be a gift from a Father who loves me deeply.
If you find yourself in the midst of a trial today,
here's what I want to say to you.
Allow your perseverance to finish its work.
I promise that one day you will turn around and discover something............
Joy that understands that there is more to this life than this life.
Joy that sees beyond the earthly to the eternal.
Joy that says, "I'm going to be better than okay one day, and until then, I'll keep on trusting Him."
I'm praying for you today.
Praying that you will keep on keeping on...........one step at a time.
Because every step forward with Him is also one step closer to Him.