I’ve recently been immersing myself in the book of James. Today would be my 23rd day in a row to read the same thing – and it has not even become close to getting boring! Every day new phrases jump out at me, and today it’s been no different. Today, I’m just in awe of the idea that James, in writing to a people scattered because of persecution and having left all that is dear to them on earth, starts his letter saying, “Rejoice!” (this is the word you probably see as “Greetings” in your English Bible)
Let’s face it. Life is hard. We all have struggles of many different kinds. I’m not enduring persecution like those Jewish christians were – not even close. But there are many trials that I have faced, and am facing today. And the same goes for you, most likely. And, if you are anything like me, you can get to thinking that there is no one out there who understands because no one has gone through exactly the same thing. There is not a person who has the perfect word that you need for help, because they just frankly don’t understand.
And there James sits, probably in comfort in Jerusalem, writing to the people who have left their homes, their jobs, maybe their families (if they are still alive), who truly don’t belong or fit in wherever they have found themselves. And the first thing he says to them is, “Rejoice!” And you wonder what James’ experiences with trials were that this is what he finds most helpful to say from the get-go? (of course, also inspired by the Holy Spirit! And if that’s what HE thought they needed to hear – it makes that statement even more profound!) How about growing up with a perfect brother? Ha! That would be pretty difficult! Or watching that brother go through being mocked, tortured, and crucified, when you knew without a doubt that He had NEVER done anything wrong?!? There is a trial in itself of being helpless to help the one you love who is suffering. Or how about when he came to the realization that Christ was truly God, the guilt he would have felt for not having believed.
No, James’ trials were not the same as what these people were going through. And if they were to discount him from the beginning of his letter because of that, they would miss out on a whole wealth of beautiful truths that they needed to hear!
Paul says, in 2 Corintians 1,
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.
God intends for us to experience His comfort through our own trials – whatever they may be. And to then share that comfort with others, not because we have the perfect answers, but because we know the perfect God! The God of all comfort, who showers His grace on us when we run to Him in time of need.
And what a beautiful thing that, in the midst of some of the darkest circumstances in life, that we can truly “Rejoice!” , not because of the trial, but because of Who is on the throne and how He is working through us in that trial to make something beautiful despite ugly circumstances!
Because when we understand just a little bit about the comfort and the goodness of God, it is not really so strange after all, that the cares of this world would grow dim in comparison, and we can truly, “Rejoice!”