Pain as provision

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its good work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

(James 1:2-4)

When I look back on past pain in my life with 20/20 hindsight, I find that without exception I can connect that pain to a blessing. That high school break-up led me to my current husband. That terrible job pushed me to start my own business. Those unkind words helped me look at myself more honestly. That rejected proposal gave my business the capacity to aid a client through a challenging time. That surgeon’s error helped me reevaluate my life and who I was becoming.

Do I “consider it pure joy” when trials come my way? Um, no. But I do try to recognize the growth opportunities that come with them. The best way I know to do that is to reflect back on the fruit of past disappointments. This enables me to view pain as provision from God, who uses trials to shape our hearts to be more like His.

James said, “The testing of your faith develops perseverance.” The testing of your faith... Our faith is not tested when things are good. The older I get and the more mature my faith becomes, the more it takes to test that faith. The pain has to be deeper; the development of perseverance demands more effort from me.

My daughter is a competitive volleyball player. When she was selected for an elite team, she had to adjust to a lot more hours at the gym including intense weekly conditioning. Her body changed; her stronger legs don’t fit in her beloved skinny jeans anymore. This month she started on a new team with an even higher caliber of players and even more intense practices. She has gone from practicing three days a week to four, which is more demanding on her body and on her mind as she tries to keep up with school work with less available time. But watching these girls play together is a sight to behold. They are more confident and mature as individuals and as a team.

Pain is hard. It always will be. That’s the point of it. Nowhere in scripture are we told that life will be free of pain if we invite God into our hearts. Quite the contrary. David was hunted. Paul was imprisoned. Jesus was crucified. Why are we surprised when darkness overtakes us? Instead of viewing pain as punishment, let’s try to view it as provision. Because without pain, we cannot develop perseverance. And it is perseverance that gives us the perspective to grow, to be mature and complete.

Do I consider it pure joy when trials come my way? No. But I endeavor to be grateful for a God who has not given up on what He can do with my life. Trials remind me that He is not yet finished with me. Amen.

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