Passing Your Finals
People of the book know the verse by heart: “Count it all joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.” (James 1:5) Life is like school with no summer vacation – a constant string of tests.
Oh, there are breaks, of course; seasons of life that are relatively carefree. But the smooth times can’t be predicted or scheduled. Kids get cancer, natural disasters seem to come out of nowhere, recessions suddenly send markets tumbling, seemingly solid marriages crumble, tragic accidents destroy physical function, and not a single person had any of these on their calendar.
Our ignorance is a mercy, I think. Can you imagine how horrible it would be to know years in advance the day you would receive the dread diagnosis? But ignorance is not necessarily bliss. One of the painful elements of any severe test is not knowing how long it will last. How long will I be unemployed? How long till my back pain is healed? How long till I marry? A year, a decade…never? The uncertainty alone is a hard test.
What test will be your hardest? Only God knows for sure, but I think the odds are that it will be near the end of your life. Final exams are typically the toughest. I was talking with a brother last week who has dealt with health problems most of his life. Countless surgeries and compounding complications have now left him unable to be on his feet, or drive his vehicle. His day consists of managing pain and his many debilitations. His enviable woodshop sits quiet as he can no longer do what he loves. At his age, he does not expect he will be able to do any work ever again, but he fears he may live with pain for many years to come. How much can he take?
After we prayed, I hung up the phone. His test scares me. I have faced so little difficulty in my 52 years and I so enjoy physical work that I cannot imagine facing the twin tests of pain and immobility for years. But when I was in second grade, I couldn’t imagine passing physics or calculus. Fortunately, there were several grades in between that gradually prepared me for the harder subjects. James says God works a similar plan of development. “Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:4)
Today, I am thankful to simply be a little sore and have limited stamina. I will trust God for the tougher tests yet to come.