Meditations for Troubled Times
“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)
“Sing praises to the Lord, O you his saints, and give thanks to his holy name. For his anger is but for a moment, and his favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.” (Psalm 30:4-5)
Do you find it difficult to conclude that the many trials that come your way are something that leads to happiness? You break your favorite dish, or you receive the diagnosis that there is no cure for your disease. On the way home from the doctor, your car breaks down and your cell phone dies. You lose your job.
The Jewish Christians James is writing to in his letter are displaced from relatives and their homes. He is not referring to something philosophical or encouraging a “Pollyanna-type” attitude, but rather he is teaching believers the way to be whole in Christ. The more you respond to affliction God’s way, the stronger your bond to Christ and His suffering. The book of James reveals ways to help us endure if we seek God’s way through the wisdom He freely offers. (James 1:5)
Recently I had a conversation with our dear mother in the faith, Miss Nancy. I was curious how God had given her joy in this life. In a matter of seconds, she came up with several examples. First, she revealed that she had grown up in a home where there was no joy. But then she met Charles, and his joy was contagious, and her life changed. If you have spent any time with Charles, you know he radiated joy over His Savior. Both he and Nancy wept over the loss of a baby, but God gave them joy in the morning. Over the years they prayed for their children and grandchildren’s salvation. God gave them great joy in seeing one of their grandchildren profess faith after seeing his grandparents pray for him. Then there was Charles’ final moment on earth. As Nancy watched Charles slip into the arms of his Savior, there was that joyful smile on his face. She did weep that night, but joy came to her in the morning. Isn’t weeping over affliction part of the process of considering it all joy?
Our brothers and sisters in Christ at Independent Presbyterian Church in Savannah, Georgia have experienced a tough year. They lost one faithful staff member in 2019, and then recently a dear brother to me, Rev. Ron Parrish. Over the last eighteen years, I have looked forward to seeing Ron at IPC and conferences. He was hospitalized with Covid-19 complications around September last year. Sadly, on Tuesday January 26, 2021 he was taken into glory. At his memorial service, Pastor Terry Johnson used Matthew 25 regarding the parable of the talents. Truly Ron lived a life of “good and faithful service.”
Don’t we all long to hear these words at the end of our days: “His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things; enter the joy of your master.’” (Matthew 25:21) One Greek translator noted that Jesus is saying “Come on, share your Lord’s gladness with him!”
Have you noticed in the Word that true joy is always linked to the future kingdom? As Pastor David has encouraged us to think about Christmas carols, think on this one based on Psalms 96 and 98 and written by Isaac Watts as a celebration of the Second coming of Christ:
Joy to the World; the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King!
Let ev'ry heart prepare Him room,
And Heaven and nature sing.
-Tim Verner, Ruling Elder