My brothers and sisters, consider it nothing but joy when you fall into all sorts of trials, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect effect, so that you will be perfect and complete, not deficient in anything. (James 1:2-4)
I don't know about you, but I really don't consider it "nothing but joy" when I'm going through some struggle. There are a couple of things however that I have learned along the way.
Notice that James does not say "if you fall into all sorts of trials", but when you fall into all sorts of trials. I've learned like many of you that you need not seek after adversity, it has a way of finding us.
As people that try to walk-the-walk as well as talk-the-talk, we are not exempt from having trials and difficulties. I know what it is like to have health problems. While God has blessed me with a good marriage and a good career, he has not kept me from being stupid from time to time. Secondly, as James informs us, I have found that these trials will come in many different forms (all sorts of trials-verse 2). In my short time serving on Pastoral staff, I have experienced and observed many different forms of adversity. I have seen those who have suffered extreme financial losses. At the same time, I have seen those who were wealthy financially stricken with grief over illness and death that no amount of money can solve.
As a nation, we now witness hurricane Katrina and her aftermath. As of tonight the death toll is still short of 100 but has been estimated to grow to well over 1,000 souls. My wife was watching a report on the news of a husband who had died while his wife looked on, unable to provide assistance. To our horror as a civilized society, the only advice and comfort the wife was later given by the authorities was to "move the body away, so you are not bothered by the smell".
I think that part of the difficulty in reading and really appreciating the words of James is we find no joy in this type of adversity. I don't have a theology that lays the blame of natural disasters like hurricane Katrina at God's feet. We live in a broken world, full of sin and shame. We also live on an earth that can be a very dangerous place to live.
My heart goes out to the people that have lost their property, the lives of their children, neighbors, friends and family. I am sad that this entire region will be economically stunted for years by the billions of dollars of damage caused by the wind and the rain.
One of the things I can glean from James is that perhaps God allows adversity in our lives to show us our deficiencies and our hardness of heart. As we see these deficiencies, we realize that we must cry out to God to supply that which we lack. If this is the case, then we need to cry out loudly. We however, can rejoice in the fact that we do have One who can hear us and heal us.