Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing. James 1:2-3
“Consider it all joy“…..This stage of life does not feel at all joyful. This mess of tube-feeding, fluid retention, physical changes, passing out, agonizing physical pain and emotional turmoil. Not only are we attacking my physical illnesses head-on, but we are challenging my comfort zone of thinness. In light of what I have been through over the recent years, one would rationally assume that I could easily let go of the size of my jeans. Going up a few sizes, developing a layer of body fat, and not being teeny-tiny anymore would be a minimal cost to pay to feel better. To me, however, this process is excruciating. One would think that after almost dying and being in substantial physical pain for so long, I would not even wince at the discomfort of gaining a few pounds. Can I not stand up under this burden of weight gain as I have stood up under much “heavier” burdens in the not-so-distant past? Oh, I pray that I can.
“Various trials“….Our lives are filled with all sorts of trials, aren’t they? Devastating loss, emotional agony, personal physical illness, betrayal, abuse, poverty…the list goes on as far as the day is long. Some of us handle different trials with greater ease than others. I do know that for me, physical illness and physical suffering seem to be small beans compared to the mental and emotional suffering that I have been through. After having battled mental illness for my whole life and physical illness for the past four years, if I had to pick between the two, I would pick physical illness any day. That’s just me. I am not making a blanket judgment on the universal nature of suffering, but only speaking from my personal experience. With that being said, I find myself facing my old emotional demons, the old trials that I thought were much more peripheral than they seem to be at the moment. This fear of weight gain has migrated back to center stage and is staggering. The agony of being in a body that is simultaneously sick and getting larger seems to be too much to bear.
“The testing of your faith“….Let it be known that James clarifies later that God does not tempt. And we also know that the Greek word used in verse two for trials is also used in verse 13 for tempt. God is not the author of our hurt, suffering, trials, or temptations. God Himself is not pouring this painful life situation on me to make me stronger, to punish me, or to test me. Our hurt and trials grieve God because He hurts with us. This suffering is the result of living in a fallen, broken world. It is the tragedy that we all have been born into, and He is not the author of our pain (There is much greater theological depth that I can go into on this subject, but now is not the time). God is, however the redeemer. He can make our lives phenomenally beautiful if we allow Him access to our stories.
“Produces endurance“….I can, with the power of the Spirit, endure this trial. I can push through, maintain my tube feeds, push the solid foods as I can tolerate them, and allow my body to re-regulate. I can allow my weight to move up, sit in the discomfort and pain that is stirred in weight restoration, and I can see this trial as an opportunity. You see, because God is so wonderful, He can birth greater endurance within my spirit through this trial. I can press into Him, march forward into the pain of the scariest reality in my life (dreaded weight gain), and experience His all-sufficient presence once more. This will add to my history of faith, and God’s history of heroics in my life. I will, as a result, have a stronger faith, because I have seen God’s faithfulness once more.
“Perfect result, making you mature and complete“….This is where God turns evil on it’s head. Trials can be temptations, and I can go the other way. I can decide that this is too difficult, that I just can’t push through, and I can retreat into my safety zone. I can turn down the rate of my feeds, lower the calories, and never come out on the other side. This is an option. The problem with this option is that this, for me, will result in some form of death. James spells the end result out clearly in chapter 1, verse 14-15. The death may be death of trust, of relationships, or an aspect of faith. It could indeed be a physical death.
I can accept this trial as a road to life. I can press through. I can cry, I can whine, I can face the discomfort with courage, because I know that God is redeeming it. He is maturing me through it. When I feel like I have had it up to my eyebrows, and I cannot bear another moment, I can hold on for the next moment, and the next, because I’m not holding on alone. I am holding on as God is holding me in the palm of His hand.
I will follow the plan laid out for me by my very qualified team of medical professionals. This plan leads to life, and I’m not necessarily referring to wonderfully perfect physical life. That is a not-entirely-probable possibility. But this plan is one that will further set me free to live a fully devoted, chain-free life. They want to push me up above my ideal weight because that is my best bet at managing the symptoms of my chronic illnesses? So be it. In the power of God, I will go there. Not only will it allow me to hopefully function at a higher level physically, but it will also set me free from the destructive thinness-worshipping mentality of a horribly sick and distorted culture.
Life awaits beyond this trial, or temptation, or whatever you want to call it. James considers them synonymous. I love James because he doesn’t beat around the bush. He doesn’t tickle ears or tell people what they want to hear. Sometimes I need that slap in the face, just enough of a jolt to get my head on straight enough to see the difference between life and death. I need to be shaken back into focus, so I remember my goals, values, and God-given dreams, not one of which involve being the thinnest person in every room. I want to ooze Jesus. I want to pour forth love and life like a bubbling-over stream of living water. I want my children, physical and spiritual, to feel loved, nurtured, and strengthened by my presence.
I consider this trial joy because it is the path that I get the privilege of walking to be more like Jesus.
Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him. James 1:12