During my senior year of high school, Chris and I somehow found a way to ‘date’ long distance as I lived in Richmond, VA and he in Louisville, KY. We wrote letters and had the occasional phone call (but as there was no such thing as free long distance and phone bills got into the hundreds of dollars – those calls were few and far between). Yet somehow we were boyfriend/girlfriend, he drove in to be my date for prom and came back to see me graduate. The difference on that particular trip was that I got to go back to KY with him. My sister and brother-in-law were living in KY and had graciously opened their home for me to live with them that summer before I headed off to college. I was so excited. Here I was about to live with my sister…who was my best friend…THE person who understood me like no one else, who just ‘got’ me AND I was going to be near my boyfriend. We would actually get to go on a real date – what? Excitement didn’t quite cover the depth of emotions. It was an excellent summer. Jennifer and I grew close, I drove my brother-in-law nuts, and Chris and I … well, fell that much more in love (cue the ‘ooos and aahhs’ or for those with a weaker constitution cue the vomit noises). A few weeks before I was to leave for college Chris gave me a beautiful Bible and a ‘promise ring’. I was on cloud 9. Cloud 199. It was all so dreamy and fantastic. And then…(this is where you go ‘dun dun duh’) it was the weekend that I was to leave. My parents were on their way – due to arrive any minute – so Chris, my sister, my brother-in-law and I popped out to kill some time helping them look at potential apartments. On this particular day, it was raining. Raining is a sweet description – it was torrential downpours. Buckets of water dumped from the skies and for some unknown reason we all thought it would be smart to try and make a mad-dash from the car to the office clear across the grounds. (Because staying in the car and waiting for the rain to ease up was far too brilliant an idea). One by one we all took off. Yelling and laughing all the way. It didn’t take long for the combination of blinding rain and uneven pavement to take my feet out from under me. As is typical for any moment when I make a fool of myself – I instantly began to howl laughing. Here I was feeling so dumb a.) for trying to outrun the monsoon, and b.) landing on my tush in a puddle. It was hysterical…for about 2 seconds. You see Chris had been running directly behind me. He was making as fast a mad dash as I was and wasn’t prepared for me to suddenly stop and take a little break in the middle of the sidewalk. As I landed and began to laugh my uncontrollable, ‘all gums showing’ kind of cackle – Chris’ knee came smashing into my mouth. As fast as his knee hit me in the mouth, it managed to lodge onto my front tooth and quickly rip it from its resting place – root and all. It took less than half a second for my cackles of laughter to turn to screams of pain. Blood was everywhere – everything happened so fast no one knew what was going on. I was whisked to an emergency after care facility while Chris and Rusty, my brother-in-law went out to search for my tooth. It was horrible. In a second…everything got flipped upside down. Horrific!
This story came to mind this morning as I read the next few verses in James 1:9-12. As I have been thinking about these verses – I remembered having to read them in a different version of the Bible some time ago, called The Message. This version of the Bible is not one that you would want to use to actually study the Word, but I like to see the poetic way they simplify verses from time to time. And this is one of those moments that I love the simplicity The Message places on this passage. It says ‘When down-and-outers get a break, cheer! And when the arrogant rich are brought down to size, cheer! Prosperity is as short-lived as a wildflower, so don’t ever count on it. You know that as soon as the sun rises, pouring down its scorching heat, the flower withers. Its petals wilt and, before you know it, that beautiful face is a barren stem. Well, that’s a picture of the “prosperous life.” At the very moment everyone is looking on in admiration, it fades away to nothing. Anyone who meets a testing challenge head-on and manages to stick it out is mighty fortunate. For such persons loyally in love with God, the reward is life and more life.’ I love the way that James tries to paint as clear a picture as possible. He doesn’t mess around. He is quick to tell us that trials should be considered pure joy – remember why? Because it means God is about to do a work in us, to test and strengthen our faith. He then talks about how we need to seek wisdom – remember from who? God – so that we won’t be tossed around, but stand confidant in Him. Do you notice a theme here? Our mindset needs to adjust and realign back to being on Him…in trials – think on how God is moving in you and experience joy. In decisions that need to be made – think on what God has for you and stand firm in His truth and you won’t be tossed about, further confused. If we persevere, if we stand the trial, if we walk in humility we will receive the crown of life. If we get consumed by the trial, if we fret and stress going back and forth in how to handle the situation or if we forget that everything is but for a fleeting span of time…we will not find joy and we will miss what He has promised for us. Relationship with our God, trust in him, humility in being his and focus on him – this is what we need to focus our time and energy on. Everything else…withers and fades and can disappear in a second. That summer all that I had held onto and focused my attentions on were gone in a second. Securities of what I saw when I looked in the mirror, plans that I had in place, all suddenly changed. The following year was a trial of recovery. But it was all worth ‘giving a cheer’ because the Lord was seeking to correct my focus and get my mind set on Him. What is your mind focused on? Are you persevering in Him? Are you holding the things, the people, the plans of this world higher than your God?
My prayer for Today…
Lord – I thank you so much for how your Word both challenges AND encourages. None of us ever seem to be thrilled with the trials that come our way – no matter how big or small – but there is purpose behind each one. You remind us that they WILL come. You tell us to be prepared for that – but then you encourage us to remember that it is to strengthen our relationship with you; it is to build our trust in you. You remind us that those who persevere are blessed in you. The things in our lives that we get so caught up in can steal all of our focus, can steal our hope, can steal our joy. They can pull us down, pull us away from you – ‘things’ that are here for a moment and then quickly gone. My prayer for myself, for my friend reading…may we persevere in you today. May we stand the test. May we draw closer in to you. May we remember that you have promised to be with us through each of these moments – good or bad. Thank you for the promise of your crown. Thank you for the hope. In your sweet name we pray – Amen.