When I was a teenager I got a job at a local fast-food restaurant. As we lived out in the country, my parents graciously (perhaps a tad naively) allowed me to use the family car to make the communte. To get to work, I had to navigate a particularly curvy stretch of asphalt known as Clendenning Creek Road. For most of the year this was no problem. In the wintertime, however, there were treacherous spots that were likely to be icy, even though the pavement looked bare.
One particular winters day, late for work, I hit one of those icy curves going a mite (or a lot) faster than I should have been, and the car spun out of control.
As I fought the panic rising within me, I remembered the counsel my Dad had given to me back when he was teaching me how to drive.
“If you ever find yourself spinning out of control, don’t hit the brake. Turn into the spin, and lightly touch the gas.”
At that moment, every fiber of my being urged me to slam on the brakes and turn against the spin. Yet somehow (and I can only attribute this to the unmerited favor of the Almighty) I forced myself to turn into the spin and ever-so-tentatively touch the accelerator. To my great astonishment and relief, the little Dodge hatchback pulled out of the spin and continued on its way as if nothing had happened – though its driver was sweating bullets.
My father’s counter-intuitive advice had saved the day, the insurance premium, and perhaps even my life.
There are times when that which must be done is that which makes the least sense to us.
In James 1:2, the author gives an example of such a time.
Do What Now?
After a brief but theologically loaded introduction, James shocks us with the following statement:
My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials.
And there we have two words that not usually considered together: joy and trials. As we consider the text, the contrast becomes even more striking. It’s not just joy, but all joy. That can also be translated as pure joy. And they are not just trials, but various trials – the idea being several different kinds of trials, all at the same time.
Now I don’t know about you, but whenever one trial comes into my life (and the word fall, it should be noted, bears with it the idea of that which is beyond our control), joy is not the first thing I feel. And on those occasions when I encounter several difficulties all at once, well, pure joy is not my initial emotion.
Which is a good thing, because James is not telling us to feel anything. He is telling us to count or consider it joy. This is an exercise of the mind, not the emotions. When our life hits the ice-patch, it is normal, and not at all wrong, to feel panic. But it is important for us to remember that which we have been told by God’s word.
And what have we been told? Something completely counter-intuitive – that these trials are a motive for joy.
Now James could have left it there, but to our great relief he didn’t. In fact, he will spend the next several verses explaining to us exactly why the trials we face in life are reasons for rejoicing. We will begin to examine those next week.
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