Recently in one of our regular internationals’ Bible Studies (on Zoom, of course) we were reading from the book of James, which is full of wisdom for people who are following Jesus. We came to these words –
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:2-3).
As we reflected on this, we wondered why we should be glad that we experience trouble and trials in our Christian life. Why is it good for our faith to be tested? Surely we should always be absolutely certain about what we believe? Surely we should never doubt?
We all know that we go through times when our faith waivers. It might be because of something that happens to us, or our beliefs are challenged by new ideas, or we take a wrong path. Whatever the cause might be, life can mean that our faith takes a bit of a knock, and we have a bit of a wobble. We know too that if we are going to survive we have to cry out to God to help us to stand firm once again.
As I read these words in James, they remind me of a toy that I used to have as a child. It was an old fashioned wobbly man. You may have seen one, or you may have had one when you were little. They are often made of plastic – a very fat, round little man, often with a funny hat on and a cheery smile, but no legs. When they are knocked over they don’t stay down but immediately pop back up again – smiling as before. Then they rock about a bit, but they stay in the same place, until they are knocked down again. This makes me wonder – is that what the Christian life is like?
Thankfully, the answer to this question is no – Christian life is not static like that. We are on a journey, and as James says in verse 4, it is a journey of growth towards maturity and completeness. This helps me to see why we might be able to rejoice when we fall down and make mistakes. For, according to this verse, we are not to be like wobbly men who, when they fall down, just bounce back up again and sit exactly where they were before. We are human beings who have been given the capacity to reflect and learn from our experiences, and to progress along the road. In fact, our difficulties and mistakes help us to learn what not to do and what to do, and how to become wiser and more mature.
So, the next time you have a bit of a wobble – don’t just spring back and stay static – thank God for picking you back up, and ask what you can learn from the experience. Think about what you will do differently next time, and give thanks to God that you are all the wiser for it.