Many of us are reaching the end of this year with a sense of, “Thank goodness 2020 is over!” It has been a year of grief and loss for so many, and a year of fear, exclusion and isolation for most, if not all, of us. As we look back over this year, it will be with different thoughts and memories, as any other year of our lives, but may be not for the better.
I wonder how many of us can reach the end of 2020 and genuinely consider the past nine months with great joy as this scripture suggests we should. It is certainly counterintuitive to do so when we think of the suffering, the frustration, and the loss of friends and family, businesses, friendships and church fellowship that we have endured.
It is the next two verses which help us understand just how we can consider such trials as something we can take joy in. ‘For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing’ (James 1:3-4).
The key word in this is opportunity. As with every opportunity in our lives, we have to actively take up that opportunity and be willing to engage in the fulfilment of it. If someone gave me the opportunity to see my favourite West End musical or attend a major sporting event, I would have to engage with the offer and actually go.
And so it is with the opportunity to consider our trials as joy. We must engage with the Lord in what He is offering us. It is the chance to grow and develop in our relationship with Him, and discover true inner peace and security, despite the storm raging around us. It is an opportunity to be strengthened, not weakened, by the testing of our faith, rather than just hoping we can survive until it all goes away.
Maybe this New Year is a time to consider if you have grown in strength during this time of enduring the troubles. If so, count it a joy! If not, it may time to ask the Lord to help you grow in the trials of life, not succumb to them. It isn’t easy, it isn’t nice, but it is a place of growth, and spiritual growth should surely be one of our goals for a brighter 2021, regardless of the challenges it may bring.
Prayer: Dear Lord, in all honesty 2020 has not been a good year. There are so many feelings of loss, pain, frustration and loneliness. Yet, as I look ahead to a new year, I commit to seizing the opportunity to consider trials a joy as I grow in my relationship with You. Amen.
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