~ James 1:1-4, KJV ~
My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations;
Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.
But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.
There is an important concept here: patience is not passive resignation, nor is it failing to act because of our fears. Patience means active waiting and enduring. It means staying with something and doing all that we can—working, hoping, and exercising faith; bearing hardship with fortitude, even when the desires of our hearts are delayed. Patience is not simply enduring; it is enduring well!
~ President Dieter F. Uchtdorf – April 2010 ~
“You don’t know what it is like to be homeless!”
He sat there blankly staring at me. “You don’t know what it’s like being homeless!” He quickly looked away. Shame in his eyes.
“I’m sure I understand what it is like being homeless.” A soft response to a harsh statement. “It was not easy for me. Nor do I believe it is easy for you or others that are experiencing homelessness.”
For a moment, he simply looked at me with another blank look in his eyes. “I don’t really think you do.” He paused and sucked in some air. “I think you’re just blowing smoke up my ass!” He gathered his things, shoved them into his pockets and scurried away.
I wanted to speak with the gentleman more. Share a cup of coffee with him. A hot meal. Share my story with him about my own personal struggles and experience with being homeless. Would he, or anyone for that matter, take the time to really listen to my story? We all experience significant trials in our lives. Looking back on those years I spent as a vagabond and dealing with my own personal demons helped me understand something I wished I had understood then. Be patient and vigilantly faithful to God.
Between mid-1990’s to early part of 2000, I had experienced homelessness numerous times. Either being asked to leave a place I was living at, having lost employment and not able to pay rent, or various other reasons. Much of my homeless stint was around Bellevue and Seattle, Washington area. I’ve stayed at local Churches with a group of others who were homeless as well. Stayed at shelters, lived out of a pick up truck, a Mazda 323, etc. The last time I experienced homelessness was when I was left in Seattle and given $50.00. All I had was a back pack, pair of work boots, 3-cartons of Carnival Cigarettes, and a couple of days worth of clothes.
It was the lowest point in my life. Sense of confidence and resilience – gone. Most depressing time of my life. What did I do and How I managed to survive even surprises me today. One thing my father taught me was to work hard no matter what the circumstances were. He always worked hard to provide for his family. Despite his health issues.
One thing my father taught me was to always work hard no matter what the circumstances were.Tweet
So, I had found a day labor hall. I showed up every day and was sent out. The kicker was, I still had no place to live. And, with only making $50.00 per day – there was only enough to get a simple meal, a pack of smokes, and coffee. When I was not working, I pretty much walked all over Downtown Seattle – daring not to lay my head down. I also attended some of the community meals that were offered at various locations. If I was able to afford the $5.00 cost to stay at a shelter, I would. Then, someone told me about a transitional housing program that helped people. I was able to get connected. Within that week, I made my call and was informed that a bed opened up. I was able to get in.
For the past week to almost two weeks, I had little sleep. Suffering sleep deprivations, thirsty, stressed. I pretty much looked liked death warmed over. Slowly, I rested and followed the program and was able to get back on my feet. This was the last time I had experienced homelessness in my life. Since then, I have made significant progress in my life.
Count it all joy when you fall into various trials
What the heck does this mean? How do we find joy when faced with trying circumstances? One of the stark contrast of true authentic Christian faith and that of a False profession of faith is determined by trials. Real genuine, and practical, faith is sustained by joy and patience. The First Century Christians (Jewish and Gentile) were experiencing external and internal sufferings and difficulties. Some of these were:
- Oppression by those of wealth and affluence
- Dissension due to lack of self-mastery and control
- False teachings
- Inappropriate and possible vulgar speech
- Favortism and self-promotion and ambition
These same struggles and difficulties abound within the Christian community and within the secular society. Faced with these challenges, the author of James utilizes Hebraic wisdom traditions and teachings. Coupled with the principles of Wisdom – one will also find the letter treating the subject of Ethics and social justice.
To understand what it means to find joy – we must understand the nature of suffering and adversity. In the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew 13:1-23; Mark 4:1-20; and Luke 8:4-15) we read the parable of the sower.
In the interpretation of the parable of the sower – Christ expounds to his disciples the meaning. The first is that regarding the seed that fell on the wayside and being snatched up quickly.
When any one heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not, then cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away that which was sown in his heart. This is he which received seed by the way side.
~ Matthew 13:19, KJV ~
Sometimes, we may hear something. It may be an inspirational spark. However, it is quickly taken away by the cares and worries of this world. A person lacks understanding and not able to cultivate real faith. Their joy in life appears to be diminished quickly. And, hearing something is not the issue. Allowing it to take root is at issue. Our lack of understanding, faith, joy, and patience has no foundation and is easily snatched before it is able to secure itself within our hearts and minds.
The second part of the parable is where Christ expounds on the seed that fell into the stony places.
But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it; Yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended.
~ Matthew 13:20-21 KJV ~
In the NASB, the word anon is changed to immediate. This is keeping with the Greek context. Here, the seed does take root. However, it is not able to fully root itself in the ground. Our faith may be immediate. Our joy may be even received with great enthusiasm. However, when life happens – we falter and become offended. Our faith and joy diminishes – so does our patience with God. We become easily offended and angered.
Selfish Pride and Ambition
The third part of the parable deals with those who appear to blossom and do well. They may appear to be quite successful. Yet, at what cost?
He also that received seed among the thorns is he that heareth the word; and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful.
~Matthew 13:22, KJV ~
Without a genuine and authentic relationship with our Heavenly Father – our faith is weakened and choked by the cares of this world. We prefer the accolades of men rather than submit with humility to a divine and providential God who shows us mercy and grace. We strive to prove ourselves to the world that we are something. There is great success – yes, but to what cost? How many have relied on deceitful tactics and manipulations to attain their status? Faith, Joy, and Patience are choked and the person has no fruit of righteousness, love, or compassion.
Genuine Faith, Patience, and Joy bear real fruit
The final aspect of the parable that Christ expounds upon is that of the seed falling on good ground.
But he that received seed into the good ground is he that heareth the word, and understandeth it; which also beareth fruit, and bringeth forth, some an hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.
~ Matthew 13:23, KJV ~
Joy and patience comes when we hear and understand. Through our trials, we bear real fruit of our faithfulness to God. We persevere and endure. Our faith grows and becomes a well-spring of blessings. Through our joy and patience – our faith strengthens us and we become resilient. It is how we choose to respond in those times where we face our trials.
So, what does it mean to count it all joy? According to the article – What does it mean to count it all joy? – at Compelling Truth:
The term “count” simply means to consider. It has to do with what you choose to do with what is presented to you. In context, the issue is what to do when bad things happen. When a person is confronted with suffering, he or she can choose how to respond. Some might “count it injustice,” that is, they may consider it to be unfair and they will respond accordingly. Some might consider it to be the judgment of God and therefore despair that God is angry with them or has turned against them. Others might count or consider it an opportunity to demonstrate their own resilience. They might determine to fight back and overcome in their own strength. When trials come, the way we respond is more important in determining the outcome than the actual trial itself.
The consideration is given over to our power and ability to choose how to respond in trying circumstances. Quite easy to find joy when we are experiencing good things. Yet, when pressed down by the storms of life – we are far from wanting to experience joy. Yet, that is our Christian virtue. To find joy in life. Experience joy.
Ligoiner Ministries shares this insight in their devotional: Counting it All Joy:
In order to count earthly afflictions joy, we have to be able to take into account the future. Sometimes a Christian’s hope for heaven is ridiculed in our day. The lost mock those whose lives are characterized by hope. But sometimes this is all we have. When our lives are filled with sorrow and grief, we must be able to look to the future—to heaven—to find the joy that can soothe our troubled souls. Our joy must be based on looking to God and to the inheritance we will receive in heaven. This is exactly what Jesus did. He was able to endure the cross because of the joy that was set before Him (Heb. 12:2). We, too, must realize that the suffering we endure in this life cannot compare with the joy that is laid up for us in heaven.
See, our joy does not come from the people around us (while they may have a great influence to our sense of joy). Nor, does our sense of joy come from the things we strive to attain, or the accolades of men (and there is nothing wrong with setting goals and accomplishing them). No, our greatest since of Joy comes from our Heavenly Father, through His Son, Jesus Christ, and bestowed upon us by the power of the Holy Spirit. When we walk in obedience to God – we are walking in enduring faith, trusting in Him and in His guiding hand and divine plan. I have come to realize that it is not my happiness that was at stake. It was my sense of joy and how I needed to live and grow in faith.
I have come to realize that it is not my happiness that was at stake. It was my sense of Joy and how I needed to live and grow in faith.Tweet
It took a really long time for me to come to terms with this simple, and yet, practical truth. See, I had this false bravado ideal understanding that my own sense of worth. My own sense of power. My own sense of freedom and fun. My own sense of belonging was diminished by other people. I invested in other people to help me feel happy. It took a lot of energy and effort to do everything in my power to simply get some sympathy and admiration. Blaming other people out of my own angry disposition fell flat. My life was fruitless. What I thought faith was really was no more than a weak minded immature individual who failed to root himself into the good ground of faith.
Every season that I experienced homelessness, was because of my lack of faith in God. How I got through most of it was only because of some aspect of cunning resourcefulness. Unfortunately, it never created an enduring and longevity of stability. I thought there was joy and happiness. However, it was mostly riding the merry-go-round and going nowhere fast.
Breaking Pride and Ego was the only way for me
Shipwrecked. That is probably the best description for how I felt the last two times I’ve experienced homelessness. Prior to this, my experience was merely a “here we go again. Ain’t my first rodeo!” Why? Because my faith and trust was only in my own sense of resourcefulness. One learns how to quickly adapt and make due in the course of dealing with a revolving door of facing the same trials. However, it started weighing down that something was not working. No matter the effort put in. I kept missing something. I really wanted to get off the merry-go-round. End the cycle, and for once in my adult life have some type of stability.
My pride and ego had to be demolished in order for humility and grace to take root. Then faith and patience was able to work.Tweet
Attending an Assemblies of God Church, I had permission to park my Mazda 323 in the parking lot. Clothes in one bin. Books in another. I’d go to work at a day labor. Work with a buddy of mine at the time. And, when we were off, we’d head out to get something to eat, hit up the library, engage in some online debates, and then pal around to have a few drinks. Friday’s or Saturday nights, we’d hit up the Karaoke place. Life wasn’t really all that bad right? Well, I complained about how unchristian some of the Christians were.
I possibly can’t fathom how I lived in a compact car like this for about a year
In fact, one of the gentleman that I had become acquainted with helped me get hired on as the janitor of the Church. I no longer had to go to the day labor place. Stable employment and still living in my car. Today, I possibly can’t fathom how I lived in a compact car for about a year.
As I worked, the gentleman would also come around and speak with me. One night, he listened to my ramblings and rantings. He paused. Then, he said something so profound that it angered me at first. I was not able to respond to it. All I remember was how angry I was in that moment.
“Tim, I believe I know what your problem is.” He paused as I drank my coffee and smoked a cigarette. “You feel entitled that all those people that come to Church owe you something. That it is their Christian duty…”
I attempted to interject with my doctrinal and scriptural prowess on this. He continued.
“The reality is this – no one owes you anything. The only person who owes you something is yourself. ”
Most of my life was spent focusing on what I believed others could do for me. Entitled to their kindness, compassion, and generosity.Tweet
I finished up my janitorial duties that night. I walked from the Church to my parked car. Seething mad and angry. Thoughts racing like a hamster on a wheel. Climbed in, laid the seat back, and mulled over what he said. This is probably one of the few times I’ve heard that audible voice. Not the typical feel good still small voice. A firm and audible voice.
Look where you are at right now. Whose responsible for being where you are right now?
Nothing quite like a powerful inquisition to bring you to a place of sincere humility. He was right. Most of my life was spent focusing on what I believed others could do for me. Entitled to their kindness, compassion, and generosity. When it did not happen – or, when it failed to meet my unrealistic expectations did I slip and become resentful. Bitter. Arrogance and pride was dashed against the harsh jagged rocks of reality.
My faith in God became real. However, it took another bout of homelessness to shake my world upside down. It was how I ended up in Seattle. It was another real encounter with how I needed to choose. All I know is that I really placed my faith and trust in God. To this day, I am still uncertain how I made it through a week to a week and a half with little to no sleep. Working and focusing on following God.
However, little by little, I was led out of homelessness. Worked to rebuild my life and to secure a more stable and right way of living. Am I perfect today? Not by a long shot.
What it took, on that night in early 2000, was the breaking of my own ego and pride. Because, sometimes the trials of our faith really are to test us to see if there really is any genuine faith. Otherwise, it is mere profession of faith and when we face those times of difficulty, we lack the understanding and wisdom in how God will guide us through.
Trial of Faith works Patience
One thing I have learned is that when faced with difficult circumstances – there is a needed response. From the Christian perspective, our response is to be patient and rely on God’s divine and providential will. This is expressed numerous times throughout scripture. This does not mean we sit down and do nothing. It means we stand with a resolved intent and purpose in seeking God’s divine direction and counsel. Placing our concerns, worries, and anxieties on the alter. Consistently, and with contrition and humility, pray and meditate on what course of action we may need to take. Sometimes it calls for our faith to be tried when people mock us. Speak in vain toward us. Discourage us. Sometimes, it is dealing with the loss of employment, loved one, family pet, freedom, or even housing. Sometimes, it is dealing with getting older and health related issues that may come our way.
Whatever the circumstances are – we face trials every day. Our faith in God gives us the strength we need to withstand the storm. It is our faith in God’s divine and Sovereign grace and mercy that gives us the ability to be patient.
In her article at LDS Daily – 4 Practical Ways to Actually Develop Patience – Aleah Ingram shares this:
- Understand the root of our own impatience
- Delay the need for instant gratification
- Ask what the purpose in waiting on God is for
- Look for those blessings by showing gratitude
Patience undermines our need for instant gratification. However, we live in a society filled with instant messaging services, instant photos, social media, accessible and instant information through the internet. Growing up, one either had to wait until they got home to make or receive a call. Wait for the letter to come in the mail. Wait for the daily newspaper to be tossed onto the front porch. Or, wait until one got home to watch the evening news.
At the October 2006 General Conference, Robert C. Oaks shared a message on the power of patience.
We can grow in faith only if we are willing to wait patiently for God’s purposes and patterns to unfold in our lives, on His timetable. – R. C. Oaks, October 2006Tweet
At the April 2010 General Conference, Second Counselor of the First Presidency – Dieter F. Uchtdorf shared on what it means to continue in Patience. He remarks on the study done with 4-year old children and marshmallows and how this impacted those children later in life.
If we are ever going to grow and mature in our relationship with Heavenly Father – we must learn to be patient. The natural tendency is to want our circumstances to be removed quickly so that we lessen the blow of suffering. Yet, if this were a possibility – think of what one may miss out on.
What I have learned is this: I had to get my heart and mind right with God. See, I was operating under a profession of faith. Meaning, I believed in God. However, as with the parable of the sower, my faith dwindled with the cares of this world. My faith was snatched up right away before it could ever take root. And, there were times when my faith did take root, however, it was shallow and became scorched and not able to bear any fruit. Today, I do my best to faithfully rely on God in all that I do. Unfortunately, I still struggle with pride and ego. The antidote to this spiritual dilemma is understanding what it means to live a more mindful and spiritual life within the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
I had to get my heart and mind right with God. See, I was operating under a profession of faith. Meaning, I believed in God. However, as with the parable of the sower, my faith dwindled with the cares of this world.Tweet
The stripping away of pride and ego also meant dissolving unrealistic expectations on God, others, and myself. It meant that I had to become completely emptied out and cleansed in order to be filled with newness and hope.
In one conversation with a patient, I likened the process of recovery to that of a cup full of dirty water. It does not matter how much you empty out the dirty water. The entire cup is still filthy. So, whenever you fill it, the water will still be dirty and disgusting.
In condemning the religious leaders – Christ had something to say:
Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess. Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also.Matthew 23:25-26, KJV
My profession of faith was more of an outwardly expression of how I wanted to be seen and thought of. It was not until realizing that the inside of me was still full of filth and grime. What needs to happen is that the cup needs to go through the process of cleansing before it is able to be filled and used. This takes faith and patience because of Christ’s infinite atonement. We may be redeemed and justified before God. However, our work begins by cleansing ourselves of ungodliness. We endure. As our faith increases, so does our ability to become resilient. Spiritual maturation does not happen overnight. It takes work. It takes obedience.
Made Complete, Perfect, and Lacking Nothing
It is unimaginable to reach a place in mortal life where an individual proclaims they are complete, perfect, and lack nothing. Yet, a handful of scriptures ask that we are made complete, perfect, and lack nothing. James simply makes the statement as a blessing that occurs once our faith is tried and we endure those difficult times.
One thing is true – scripture does not mislead us in false hopes and desires. And, here is how I have come to understand this within my own life and experience – especially experience of being homeless and lacking stability. Furthermore, it is the idea of understanding our own inadequacies in life.
In the book Refuge Recover – A Buddhist Path to Recovery from Addiction, we read this entry.
We are all born into bodies that are ruled by a survival instinct that is out of harmony with reality. The normal state of human beings is a sleeplike state of nonwisdom. The evolutionary process of human beings is dictated by a natural desire to live and to pursue happiness. But our survival instinct, which influences the body and mind, is really just the unrealistic expectation that life is always pleasurable and never painful. Our bodies naturally crave pleasure, which we think equals happiness, safety, and survival. We hate pain, which we think equals unhappiness and death.Refuge Recovery The Cause of Addiction Is Repetitive Craving, p. 11
In our natural state – we desire anything that brings pleasure and happiness. Anything that removes happiness from our lives appears to be a threat and we do everything in our power to manipulate and extort to bring about our own sense of happiness. It is the external attachments we perceive to be the root of either our happiness or misery. If it is something that brings misery, something that is challenging, something that is difficult: we don’t want anything to do with it. Root of our ongoing suffering is not only our attachment to our need to control. Our root of suffering is attached to fear of our own inadequacy and potential loss.
From our struggles, we gain greater sense of worth. We also gain a greater sense of freedom because of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the infinite atonement.Tweet
What I personally believe James is relating to us is that we are made complete and perfect in Wisdom. Scripture speaks about wisdom numerous times. In the Serenity Prayer, one seeks wisdom regarding knowing when to accept things we are not able to change, and the courage to focus on changing those things we are capable of changing. Proverbs says that our wisdom begins when we fear the Lord and that the knowledge of the Holy is understanding.
According to Hebrews for Christians website, we understand that this means:
The word translated “fear” in many versions of the Bible comes from the Hebrew word yirah, which has a range of meaning in Scriptures.
One of those meanings refers to:
… it can also mean “awe” or “reverence”. In this latter sense, yirah includes the idea of wonder, amazement, mystery, astonishment, gratitude, admiration, and even worship (like the feeling you get when gazing from the edge of the Grand Canyon). The “fear of the LORD” therefore includes an overwhelming sense of the glory, worth, and beauty of the One True God.”
What is also interesting to note is how yirah may be linked to the word for seeing:
When we really see life as it is, we will be filled with wonder and awe over the glory of it all. Every bush will be aflamed with the Presence of God and the ground we walk upon shall suddenly be perceived as holy (Exodus 3:2-5). Nothing will seem small, trivial, or insignificant. In this sense, “fear and trembling” before the LORD is a description of the inner awareness of the sanctity of life itself (Psalm 3:11, Philippians 2:12).
As we face our struggles. Navigate difficult seasons in our lives, we are gaining a greater sense of awareness of how God sees us. Faith and patience gifts us with greater insight in our own sense of adequacy. From our struggles, we gain greater sense of worth. We also gain a greater sense of freedom because of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the infinite atonement. Patience works when we live our lives devoted to God. The power of wisdom influences how we make decisions in the face of adversity.
Here is what Dr. Alex Lickerman, M.D. says about the power and influence wisdom has on our lives:
Wisdom is so powerful, in fact, that it can even put a halt to suffering without changing the circumstances that cause it … Most of us deem a problem solved when it no longer confronts us, but from a Nichiren Buddhist perspective a problem is solved when it no longer makes us suffer, our escaping or overcoming oppressive circumstances representing only one particular means to that end.The Undefeated Mind: On the Science of Constructing an Indestructible Self, p. 21
Hence, when we begin to rely on God. When we begin to see life for what it really is – and the beauty that abounds – we begin to stand in reverence and awe of our Heavenly Father. He created us for a purpose. This mortal existence has a definitive meaning and purpose to it. Without suffering, there is no joy. Without adversity there is no growth.
What is it that we are made perfect and complete – where we lack nothing?
In his BYU devotional, Jarod Hester teaches these principle truths from 2 Nephi 2:25:
- Understand and really believe who you are
- Strive to understand and know God
- Keep your Covenants and Honor your word
- Act in your faith
- Know that without sorrow we are not able to experience joy
I believe that these are the things we are made perfect and complete. Principle truths that give us a sense of worth, freedom, fun, and a sense of belonging. Through our struggles – we grow and mature in our faith.
Do I know what it is like to be homeless? To face the struggles of not having a place to rest? To feel drained and exhausted day in and day out? The overwhelming shame and guilt? Unequivocally yes!
James 1:1-4 teaches us the simple and practical truth. That through our faith, patience helps us endure suffering, and the wisdom we gain helps us make the necessary changes and adjust according to the circumstances. Yes – it is true. In the storms of life, we do not have the power and authority to change the tempest. We are empowered to adjust those sails.
We learn about God. We learn about ourselves. We learn about our stalwart faith and patience because of the storms of life. Without these tempests. We have no opportunity for growth.
As you go throughout this week, turn your thoughts and minds over to those difficult times in your life. How did you fare? Were you prone to manipulate, exploit, and use the situation for your own grandiose desires and sense of fulfillment to create happiness? Or, have you come to the reality and humbly sought after God with awe and reverence to learn and grow from those storms?
Maybe you are experiencing an insurmountable storm in your life right now. Circumstances weighing you down. Pressing upon you and there seems to appear no relief in sight. Fear only God and trust in Him and He will guide you through the storm.
I pray this has helped you. Inspired you. Challenged you. Please leave a comment and share your insights in how you’ve grown in your faith through those storms in your life. Share what you are struggling with so that we may be able to pray with you. And, feel free to share this with others. Do not forget – your donation helps keep this website up and running to provide devotionals, Scripture studies, and essays.