I don’t know if you run but recently I started. More accurately, slow jogging. My wife wants me to run a half-marathon with her in October and so I’m in training. The hardest part of jogging for me are the hills. In the past when I’ve walked up a hill it wasn’t that strenuous but jogging up the same hill becomes a body aching, lungs burning, legs cramping event. Just as in jogging, life comes with it’s own set of hills and valleys or challenges and setbacks. You can’t avoid them but you can learn to handle them better. The more I’ve trained the easier the hills are. The elevation of the hills are still the same but my heart, lungs, and legs are stronger. James gives you a blueprint for handling the “trials or hills” of life. As you follow the instructions the trials are still just as challenging but your faith and perseverance grow stronger.

James 1:2-6, Romans 8:28-29, I Thessalonians 5:18

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. James 1:2-6

As you face problems there are four facts of life you need to know. 1) Problems are inevitable, 2) Problems are unpredictable, 3) Problems are numerous, and 4) Problems are purposeful. God allows you to face problems because of the work they do in you to make you more like Jesus. Problems help purify your faith, fortify your patience, and sanctify your character. So, next time you are facing a problem instead of asking, “Why me?” ask, “God, what do you want to teach me?”

Does it seem counter intuitive to consider it pure joy when you face trials of many kinds? Why or why not? How do you respond to problems that happen to you because of choices you’ve made? How do you respond to problems that happen to you because of choices other people have made? Do you see problems as purposeful? Why or why not? Are you able to rejoice in the midst of problems? How has God made you more like Jesus in dealing with some of your problems from the past?

God gives you a three-step answer when you face problems: 1) Rejoice – consider it pure joy, 2) Request – you should ask God and 3) Relax – you must believe.

Lord, it seems strange to say thank you for allowing problems in my life but without them I would not become the person you want me to become. Help me to learn instead of resist, and guide me by your Holy Spirit as I face trials of many kinds. In Jesus name I pray. Amen.