“Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures” James 1:12-18.
As followers of Christ, we have not been promised a comfortable life and should not be surprised when we face difficulties. In John 16:33, Jesus told his disciples, “In the world you will have tribulation.” While our trials vary in duration and intensity, each involves pain, and although we can not choose our trials, we can choose how we respond to them. James writes these verses to remind us that during suffering our actions ought to reflect our faith.
The trials referred to here are speaking of enticements to sin that arises from outward circumstances. Often when we are in pain, our first response is to find a way to relieve it. Our natural inclinations lead us to become bitter, hateful, envious, or vengeful in our pain or to lie, cheat, or steal to escape the trial. We turn to idols to comfort us during suffering. We give in to deception by blaming God for tempting us in giving us the trial. Surrendering to these temptations may temporarily lessen our pain, but in the long run, we will have compounded our struggles. When we give in to these sinful desires, either as a response to the pain or to escape our suffering, we show that we lack the deep faith that trusts God in all situations. James encourages us that instead of surrendering to temptation during suffering, we should persevere.
The Greek word used here for persevere means literally, remaining under the load or to bear bravely and calmly. How do we bear such painful loads bravely and calmly? First, we can only persevere in God’s power by clinging to the eternal hope he offers us. In his goodness, he does not leave us without hope in our suffering. Through James, he encourages us that he blesses those who, because of their love for him, remain steadfast. God has promised us as his children the “crown of life,” eternal life. The knowledge that much greater, eternal joy awaits us than any sorrow or pain we currently endure motivates us to stand strong. 2 Corinthians 4:17 reminds us, “For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.”
We also persevere by focusing on and drawing comfort from God’s character. He is holy—he neither tempts us nor can he be tempted. He gives good and perfect gifts. He is sovereign—He chose to give us birth through the word of truth and make us his firstfruits. He is immutable—the “Father of lights” in whom there is no variation or shadow. As Barnes’ Notes on the Bible says, “He is always the same, at all seasons of the year, and in all ages; there is no change in his character, his mode of being, his purposes and plans. What he was millions of ages before the worlds were made, he is now; what he is now, he will be countless millions of ages hence.”
We must remember that God is our sovereign Creator and Sustainer, our unchanging, perfect Father and Giver of every good and perfect gift, even during trials. He has chosen to save us and set us apart as a sanctified people that reflect him. He has also sovereignly chosen to use trials in our lives to mature us into Christ-likeness that points to the beautiful God we serve. No matter what trials and suffering we encounter, our responses reflect our hearts. Lord, help us cling to these truths about you and our eternal hope so that we may endure suffering with faith and grace.