Trials are a regular part of the Christian’s experience. Our Christian lives will be marked by physical decline and spiritual opposition. We won’t get a new body until our Lord returns (Phil. 3:21), nor will we be loved by this world as long as we are His (1 John 3:13). But God grants us joy in trials. Our Lord’s brother James gives us guidance on how to seek it.
Remember that your Lord is returning. Just as a farmer waits for fruit in season (James 5:7), you can be sure that the Lord is preparing for you a harvest from your godly suffering. When He returns, you will reap the fruits of your endurance. The reward will be greater than the pain. Regardless of the source or the form of your suffering, your godly endurance will result in an eternal blessing.
Nurture your faith. James says, “Establish your hearts” (5:8). Don’t give in to doubts. Faith is meant to be filled by the Word of God, fed by the Lord’s Supper, buoyed up in corporate worship, and exercised in prayer. Suffering brings the temptation to turn inward and ponder why God has not put you on another path. Resist that temptation; embrace Christ right in the path of suffering. Think less about how long you have been or will be suffering, and more upon Christ who dwells with you in the midst of it.
Don’t grumble against others. Certain trials can bring the temptation to grumble about our circumstances and about the body of Christ (others’ failure to serve us, their better lot, the lack of empathy, etc.). James insightfully warns against this. If we devour the very ones God has given us to shore up our faith, we will struggle. Also, in an age of entitlement, we need to remember that suffering is never an excuse to sin with our mouths. Our Judge is standing at the door (5:9).
Remember the patience of Job. He suffered long and hard. He lost everything, including his health. If you have read the book of Job, you know he wasn’t patient as many conceive of patience. He defended his character against his judgmental friends: “I am innocent!” He pleaded his case before God: “What have I done to deserve this?” But he didn’t lose faith: “For I know that my redeemer lives and at last he will stand upon the earth” (Job 19:25). Patience is not indolence. Job shows that God welcomes earnest pleas and prayers offered in faith. In the end, we see “how the Lord is compassionate and merciful” (James 5:11). The Lord restored Job with family and fortune. God even rebuked his friends; Job didn’t have to correct the record.
We too shall be restored, either in this life (partially) or in final glory. Nothing happening in your life can “separate you from the love of God in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:39). Christ died and rose so that this trial will become for you a means of present and future blessing. That doesn’t take away the pain. But it does add joy and hope to it.