We know that fairy tale princesses live ‘happily ever after.’ We may wish this were true for our own lives, but it turns out to be just that – a wish.
Real life is full of painful twists and turns, sometimes enough to leave us in despair. When we allow God to speak truth into our lives, most often by consulting His written Word, we find a worldview that is not built on the pursuit of happiness.
For instance, James wrote to people scattered across the Roman world, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds.” James 1:2 Seems like a contradiction in terms, doesn’t it? Equating joy with trials?
I wish I had remembered this advice one evening recently when I was asked to share what God had impressed upon my heart during four intense, but delightful, days of annual meetings for my mission, KidZ at Heart. What lay ahead?
I shaped the bit of clay I was given into two lips smiling and announced, simply, ”…joy!”
Little did I know then that before the week was out my life would be spared on a busy freeway, heading west out of Phoenix to California. My trusted, but elderly Toyota Camry’s engine simply stopped working without any warning. I was able to coast to the shoulder safely across two highway lanes free of oncoming traffic!
Well, the death of a car, registers in my world in dollar signs. But, I was reminded that that’s not God’s Kingdom. My devotional reading that morning had been based on the name of God: Jehovah-jireh – it shall be provided. And the writer made this comment, “We, too, like Isaac, have been born into a wealthy home.” Hmmm…
But that’s not the end of my story. Before the week was out, early Sunday morning, my trusted, furry companion of nine years died in her bed in the kitchen.
I knew this was coming. She was probably sixteen years old and ill. Nearly blind, her tail had never ceased to work, and she knew me, probably by smell, rather than by sight. She may have been the last living tie to my late husband, as she came to me just days after Frank died. I needed a pet, someone had urged, to help me get over losing him.
If you’ve never lost a beloved pet, you’ll find it hard to believe that I can grieve for Ruby, but I do have to acknowledge a painful loss. She was part of the lives of many in my family, and we joyfully buried her at sunset, daughters and three granddaughters actively carrying out the task.
Of course, there are much greater losses in this life. Financial reversals, broken relationships, marriages that ‘die.’ We suffer from the thoughtless, even mean and selfish actions of others against us. So, working James’ advice into our lives takes active cooperation with God’s Spirit within us.
In the weeks ahead we’ll talk more about this.
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” James 1:2-4.