As someone born and raised in the Roman Catholic Church, I guess you can say the Bible was forced upon me. The congregation my family attended was old school, believing priests were the only ones who could accurately handle and interrupt the Bible. Reading the Bible outside of church was not recommended. However, as I began to search for the meaning of life in high school, the homilies I heard from the pulpit didn’t sit well with my soul. As a teenager I wrestled with respecting authority figures when their message seemed to be contradictory. When I began to study the Bible on my own, several passages were difficult to comprehend.
Consider it nothing but joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you fall into various trials, James 1:2.
My spiritual mentor in high school, Ken Horne, encouraged me to read the book of James, written for first century Christians scattered throughout the Middle East. I didn’t get very far before coming across a foreign concept, the second verse in this book. Consider it a pure joy when you endure trials? Huh? Did I miss something? Well, over time I realized that trials serve as opportunities to grow spiritually. However, when you are sitting in the emergency room, receiving bad news from a phone call or going through a rough stretch in life, joy is the last thing on my mind. Like an undefeated athlete or team, sometimes you have to lose to see what you need to address, improve or solidify going forward.
3 Be assured that the testing of your faith [through experience] produces endurance [leading to spiritual maturity, and inner peace]. 4 And let endurance have its perfect result and do a thorough work, so that you may be perfect and completely developed [in your faith], lacking in nothing, James 1:3-4.
Perhaps, the author of this epistle, the earthly brother of Jesus is reflecting upon the mistakes of his past. When Jesus is your older brother, every child who follows has impossible shoes to fill, a disappointment to mom and dad. Yet, James learned the more his faith was tested, maturity and peace increased. As I look back on my own life, celebrating my 35th anniversary of accepting Jesus into my heart today, Romans 10:9-10, I can relate to James. If I didn’t go through a 20 year battle with iritis, arthritis of the eye, I wouldn’t have a special appreciation for the gift of sight. Likewise, my recent health issues with high blood pressure and my heart has opened my eyes to the importance of nutrition. I’m sure there will be other unforeseen events in my future, but as I face each challenge, I do so with a quiet joy, knowing that I am an unfinished product, pottery in the hands of an almighty Potter.
by Jay Mankus