My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing. –James 1:2-4
These wonderful verses are often misunderstood and/or ignored. They declare the truth, but to the natural mind it just doesn’t sound right. We would do ourselves a big favor if we studied them carefully and trusted them completely. Pastor Stephen Davey gives us some food for thought. He writes:
Trials are not given to make us weak, but to make us learn to wait. Jesus Christ wants to develop our faith, and He rarely develops it in the normal circumstances of life. It is most often through the interruptions, the heartbreaks, and the discouragements that our faith progresses.
A young black girl living in the poverty section of Philadelphia enjoyed singing in her Union Baptist Church choir. The adults noticed latent talent in her voice and began “The Fund for Marian Anderson’s Future.” They raised one hundred twenty-six dollars in pennies, nickels, and dimes, and she began taking singing lessons.
When she was eighteen she auditioned with a famous instructor, but was rejected. Those who continued to believe in her planned a concert in a town hall in New York City. However, the critics were brutal in their reviews. While on a European concert tour, she was well-received, but in Washington, D.C., she was not allowed to sing in Constitution Hall because of her race.
For many years, Marian Anderson wallowed in self-pity. Her mother finally said, “Marian, I want you to think about your troubles and your failures a little—and pray a lot.” Then her mother said something that Marian never forgot: “Marian, you must learn that grace comes before greatness.”
Marian Anderson became a well-known opera singer, performing for the Eisenhowers and their guests in the White House, being appointed a delegate to the United Nations, and winning a Medal of Freedom. All of this came only after learning the valuable lesson that her mother had taught her.
This is the same lesson delivered throughout Scripture. Learning to fail, yet to persevere, comes as we learn to live a life of faith. Times of trial are not only necessary to teach us humility, but they remind us where our true possessions lie—in Christ.
What better example than Christ—the Model—who shows us that grace comes before greatness . . . humility before honor.
Take time to do the unthinkable: thank God for something painful in your life, whether a broken relationship, the death of a loved one, a failing grade, an illness, or a difficult circumstance. Pray that God will give you strength to persevere during the test, no matter how long it takes—even a lifetime. Remember that trials are given for your good, and even the painful times are a gift from God.