“Dear brothers and sisters,
when troubles come your way,
consider it an opportunity for great joy.
For you know that when your faith is tested,
your endurance has a chance to grow.
So let it grow,
for when your endurance
is fully developed,
you will be perfect and complete,
James 1:2-4 NLT (emphasis mine)
While reading the verses above, I would guess you had one of two reactions: Either you are encouraged, remembering there’s a purpose and reward for what you’re going through OR these few words fell like an anvil on your already heavy burden. I know because I’ve experienced both of those reactions. Many times over the years, I found my head buzzing and my heart weary in the midst of a trial or lesson. I allowed myself to become disheartened in the process, wondering if it would ever end.
However, as I’ve gotten older and am growing up into who Christ says I am, I’ve learned one powerful truth:
There is purpose in the process.
God never, ever puts you through pain just for the sake of pain. The process He leads you through, though sometimes painful, always purifies and establishes you in truth. In Him. Process prepares you for the next stage.
I had a dream this morning and one particular detail stood out as I awoke. (I’ll warn you now, it involves a common but somewhat awkward topic. Please take it with a grain of humor, but see the truth I’m trying to convey.)
In this dream, I was waiting in my husband’s truck as he was out doing a chore. I noticed a pimple on my chin in the reflection on the window. I instinctively reached up and pinched it. Unexpectedly, it erupted all over the window! As I pondered this after waking, I asked the Holy Spirit if there was anything to gain from this picture.
This is what I see:
Just as a pimple slowly grows under the skin for two or three weeks before showing up on the surface, we can carry within us emotions we often don’t see or know are there.
We feel pain when that specific area is touched, but hope it just goes away.
As bacteria, oils, and other factors play into acne, seemingly minute details of every day life feed an infection in your soul. Fear, anger, pride, jealousy, rejection – these emotions fester, oftentimes hidden for a season, as we continue with day-to-day activities. Once in a while you notice they’re there, and may try to deal with them on your own, but it usually only makes things worse. These emotions most likely bring condemnation and cause you to wonder, “Where are they coming from?” and “Why now?”
Then one day, in His perfect timing, God brings it all to a head – sometimes violently, sometimes silently. In a flash, the poison is released and healing can now come. I know this acne analogy seems silly, but I can say, “I’ve been there!” I’ve known the festering in my soul. I’ve felt the frustration, not knowing why I’m acting the way I am.
And then, at the perfect time, an inexpressible release comes as I allow the Holy Spirit to remove what doesn’t belong.
The real work happens deep in the soul, but it affects all of you. Not only is God removing what doesn’t belong, but He replaces it with His own life. His own strength. His own likeness. He is carefully building in you His steadfastness. I want to acknowledge: It’s not enough to realize there’s a process. That alone will not get you through. You need to embrace the immediate and eternal purpose of the process: to develop in you the maturity and completeness of Christ.
“For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.” James 1:3-4 NLT (emphasis mine)
Trust God’s purpose. Trust His timing. Let Him do a thorough work. Allow your endurance to grow and outrun your pain. It will be worth it!