The hardships of the novel coronavirus are striking each of us in different ways. Some are public, such as social distancing or wearing protective masks. Others are private, experiences tied to our personalities or life experiences. The later can be much more difficult than the former.
The first chapter of James addressed such hardships:
“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” (James 1:2-4 ESV)
The initial leaders of Christianity truly understood hardship. We can see this clearly in the book of Acts
- In chapter 4, the apostles Peter and John are arrested.
- In Acts chapter 5, all the apostles are arrested.
- In Acts chapter 8, great persecution breaks out in Jerusalem, scattering all of Jesus’ followers except the apostles.
- In Acts chapter 12, one of the apostles is arrested and put to death, followed by the arrest of another disciple.
Even though they knew persecution, James still writes Christians should consider it joyous when we suffer.
In the midst of this pandemic, we can see how our sacrifices are helping others. We are keeping our fellow church members safe by not gathering in person for worship. We are protecting our neighbors in our community by staying at home.
It often isn’t as obvious how God is working in us personally through such sacrifices. Yet, that is exactly what we are told in James. It is possible that, through this trial, God is producing “steadfastness” or “patience” in you. Then, God is using the experience to “perfect and complete” you, in other words mature in the faith.
The missionary Paul in Romans chapter 5 also expounds on what happens when Christians endure hardships
“Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. (Romans 5:3-5 ESV)
I readily admit, starting this meditation with hardships and trials likely didn’t sound very encouraging. I trust that, understanding that God works in us in such times, this word from Scripture truly is encouraging.
Photo by Jilbert Erbrahimi on Unsplash