“Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”—James 1:2-4
I was recently at dinner with a few guy friends. Predictably, we talked about typical guy things. Because we’re all of a “certain age,” our “guy things” talk was relatively tame. Relatively.
However … one member of our party broke an unspoken “guy” rule in my crowd: don’t complain about the weather. Not the real weather, of course. Rather, the weather of our relationships, the weather of lives. The weather we can’t control but we can certainly anticipate. “Don’t blame the weather for getting wet when you forgot to bring an umbrella,” one of my, um, “older” guy friends fondly says.
Life is tough.
Look, life is tough. We live in a world where the deck appears to be stacked against most of us. In Christian terms we call this a “fallen world,” a world where a very real and present enemy works to stain every part of our lives with fear and doubt and uncertainty.
Glass breaks. We get old (yeah, I know that’s hard to hear). Marriages fall apart. Loved ones get addicted to Opiates. Parents forget our names. Sexual harassment becomes an accepted norm. Alcohol and drugs are so common our children need rehab at 14 years old. A gun becomes a more persuasive argument than reason.
In 1944 Ella Fitzgerald and the Inkspots released a single called “Into Each Life Some Rain Must Fall.” They borrowed the title from the poem “Rainy Day” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Both Ella and Longfellow spoke truth. But I prefer the original truth from Ecclesiastes 3 “For everything this is a season.”
Storm clouds are always on the horizon. Life pushes back. This is especially hard to accept during seasons of anticipation. Seasons like Advent when God may seem silent and unreachable. Seasons where we are asked to wait and trust.
The War Inside Us
The stormy weather of our lives should not be surprising, especially for those of us actively attempting to reject the temptations of the material world, the seductions of a physical life. It’s not easy to resist.
Paul tells us of the “Conflict of Two Natures” in Romans 7, a war being waged inside each of us. He reflects that in Galatians 5:17, writing “For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh.”
The temptations of the world, particularly in seasons of waiting, are like tornadoes in Kansas. We anticipate the storm clouds, we feel the wind, we eventually see the funnel hit the ground yet sometimes we don’t seek shelter.
While we live in a fallen world and bad things happen to us, we always have control over how we respond – whether we bring an umbrella or head underground or simply give in.
Yet in every instance of adversity or waiting, we have a choice. We can choose to look backward or we can move forward. Notice we can’t actually go backward, only look there. And we really can’t stay where we are as life moves on around us. So, we can look back or move forward.
Storms Strengthen Us
James tells us in the verse I began with that the testing of our faith builds perseverance. Surviving storms makes us stronger to future storms. Meeting and defeating temptation and doubt tempers us, transforms us, like hardening steel with fire.
We see this transformation in our choices. We can feel joy or bitterness. We can forgive or hold onto anger. We can trust or be suspicious of everyone. We can be filled with faith or plagued with fear. We can love or we can hate. We can offer mercy or seek revenge.
We can fill our hearts with hope. Or we can sink into despair.
Stormy weather and hard seasons are not meant to weaken us, but rather to strengthen us. They offer us opportunities to reinforce our trust and faith in God by hearing His voice and rejoicing in His salvation. Especially when the clouds are darkest…