In The Call to Joy and Pain, Ajith Fernando, a Christian leader from Sri Lanka, wrote: “The church in each culture has its own special challenges—theological blind spots that hinder Christians from growing to full maturity in Christ. . . . I think one of the most serious theological blind spots in [today’s] western church is a defective understanding of suffering. . . . The ‘good life’—comfort, convenience, and a painless life—have become necessities that people view as basic rights. If they do not have these, they think something has gone wrong. . . . One of the results of this attitude is a severe restriction of spiritual growth, for God intends us to grow through trials.”
This is what James wanted his readers to understand. He began his epistle with a surprising command: “When troubles come your way, consider it as an opportunity for great joy” (James 1:2). James encouraged the Jewish believers to view their hardships not as a punishment or a curse, but as opportunities for rejoicing. He wasn’t encouraging them to enjoy trials or to pretend to be happy in the midst of their struggles or to try to escape from them. He was encouraging them to rejoice during their testings because of their confidence in God and because of the potential outcomes, which included endurance, a seasoned and well-developed life, and the correcting of glaring weaknesses and blind spots.
Spiritual growth doesn’t happen through comfort, convenience, and a painless life—it happens through trials and suffering. Let’s welcome testing and suffering as friends and rejoice during the difficulties, knowing that the outcome will be growth, endurance, and a reward of righteousness.
Trials reveal the level of our spiritual maturity and where we need to grow up.
NLT 365-day reading plan passage for today: Joshua 3:1-17
Read 1 Peter 4:12-16 and see some additional responses to trials and suffering.
Why is a comfortable and convenient faith potentially dangerous to spiritual maturity? In what ways have trials or suffering caused you to grow spiritually?