"Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness." -James 1:2-3 (ESV)
How do we stay content when we are shown hard times in life? Whether it's sickness, loss, family problems, losing a friend, or even just making your first bad grade, these things can hurt us. They can make us feel like we have no one in the world to look to for comfort. But how can we be like Paul, when in Philippians 4:11 he says, "I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content."? How do we count it all joy when we meet trials in our lives, as we read about in James 1:2-3, and in Mark 13:13, and in many, many other passages throughout the Bible? How can we be content in our trials?
Sometimes, we forget that the simplest, yet most crucial thing to do, is to pray. Pray about your problems, speak of them to God. "The prayer of a righteous person has great power, as it is working." according to the last part of James 5:16. "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened." according to Matthew 7:7-8. But what do we pray for? Sometimes, prayer doesn't always make the problem go away. Jesus prayed three times that he wouldn't have to face the death of the cross, as we read about in Matthew 26, and yet He still went through with it. Sometimes the things that we think we need are the things that we don't need. So if you have discovered that, after lots of time in earnest prayer, that the answer is still no, what do you then pray for? The answer: comfort. Sometimes our problems don't cease. Sometimes that loved one is still gone. Sometimes that sickness just isn't going away. But we can always ask for comfort, and we can ask to grow from the experience, that we may gain understanding and wisdom in it, and that God will remain with us. No, it's not always easy, but that doesn't mean that it's not necessary.
We always seem to read the second part of James 5:16, but rarely ever the first part. Starting in the verse right before it, it says, "And the prayer of faith will same the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed." We need to tell our friends, our families, our loved ones, when we are having these struggles. We absolutely cannot live this life and all of its trials by ourselves. We need to talk about our problems, and we need to tell others how we are feeling, and ask them to keep us in their prayers. This can bring us comfort, and it makes us closer to those that we love. Sometimes we feel like we're burdening others with our issues when we speak of them, but if someone really loves you, then you know that they are more than willing to help you in your struggles. Likewise, we need to be with our friends when they are going through their trials. Relationships are a give and take, and it's important that we are willing to take as much as we are giving.
Finally, we need to take it on ourselves to be content. Yes, it's important that we have friends to help us, and it's crucial that we make our needs known to God, but we also need to take it on ourselves to stand up straight, and tell ourselves that everything is going to be okay, and to know when the issue has died. We need to take it to ourselves to become content, and no one can give that to us other than ourselves. We can pray that God help us, and we can ask our friends for advice, but unless we accept that advice and that comfort, then there's really not a point. It's good to have a little bit of alone time, and just kind of work things out in our heads a little bit. Think about it for some time. Remember that God loves you, and that you may be going through a hard time, and no it's not easy, but God is there for you. And as long as you are serving Him, you can know that no matter what trial you're facing, and no matter what in your life is hurting you, it'll end. Maybe in this life, maybe not, but when we all get to heaven and we look back on our lives, those things will not even be a moment in comparison to eternity.
Today I would like to encourage you to not lose faith, or hope, or courage, but to allow those things to be built up in your tribulations. Allow your hard times to become reminders of your main goal, which is to serve God. It's not always easy, but it's necessary.