A Perfect Opportunity
Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing. James 1:2-4
Educators have always had to be strong. Teaching, while fun and rewarding, is inherently challenging. Being in a room with 25 little (or big) humans all day is no small feat. Attempting to manage everyone’s emotional and physical needs while simultaneously ensuring academic growth is a massive undertaking fraught with trials. Add to this a national pandemic, and suddenly the everyday challenges of teaching skyrocket to a whole new level. The sheer longevity of our current “trial” has left many feeling depleted, longing for an end to the trauma that characterizes their everyday lives.
However, when we read the words of James, we discover that these past 10 months (yes, you read that correctly) can be seen as a perfect opportunity for joy. What? Joy? I’m sure this isn’t the first word that comes to your mind when you consider teaching during a pandemic. James isn’t saying we are to “feel” joyful or “enjoy” the trial. Rather, he is challenging us to “count it all joy,” meaning we can be confident in the fact there is purpose behind the trial. That purpose is to make us more like Jesus. We will be better for it, and that is worth celebrating!
And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son.Romans 8:28-29a
No one really likes to be tested. As educators we know most students would rather doing anything but take a test! However, tests are necessary to assess learning and determine areas of growth. The same is true for us. The troubles and trials we experience in life are perfect opportunities for us to reveal our faith to those around us.
When trials come (and they will come), it is our faith that sustains us. If difficulties are met with unbelief and grumbling, bitterness and discouragement set in. Faith is weakened. Trials don’t produce faith, but when trials are received with faith, it is a perfect opportunity for us to grow. That is reason to “count it all joy!”
For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow.
Raise your hand if you could benefit from some endurance (teachers’ hands up everywhere). Some translations substitute the word “patience” with “endurance.” Patience is often interpreted as passive waiting, but the Greek word here is hupomone which means active endurance. Think marathon—that type of endurance!
How does one develop this type of endurance? It comes through perseverance over time. It doesn’t happen overnight. These past 10 months have been hard, but they have not been wasted. We are stronger. You are stronger! I hope years from now we all look back on this past year as a time of growth—a time when our relationship with the Lord grew deeper, our lives became more fruitful, and our hearts became more compassionate.
So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.
You have heard the phrase, “Opportunities come when they come.” This is usually in reference to something positive that we should take advantage of (e.g., a new job opportunity). I know trials are not easy, and most of us would rather avoid them. However, trials are a perfect opportunity for us to experience an extreme makeover. As Tony Evans says, “Hardships can transform us into something beautiful.” It is so easy to focus on what is taken from us during difficult times.
James is encouraging us to “let it grow” because He knew spiritual maturity and inner peace awaited those who endured. While perfection and completeness won’t be fully realized on this side of Heaven, we can be assured the trials of today will yield transformation tomorrow.
So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image. 2 Corinthians 3:18
Charles Spurgeon so eloquently expressed how trials can prove a wonderful work of God in us.
I have looked back to times of trial with a kind of longing, not to have them return, but to feel the strength of God as I have felt it then, to feel the power of faith, as I have felt it then, to hang upon God’s powerful arm as I hung upon it then, and to see God at work as I saw him then.
As we continue to navigate the trials of today—COVID, teaching during a pandemic, political and racial unrest—let’s never forget that God is up to something. We can and will be changed. Don’t miss this perfect opportunity!