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. If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a doubleminded man, unstable in all he does.
James 1:2-8 NIV
Wait a minute! Who stuck that in my Bible? Isn’t Christianity supposed to be all rainbows and lollipops? What’s this talk about “trials” and “testing your faith”? I don’t want to be tested! Tests aren’t any fun!
Well, contrary to what sometimes seems to be popular belief, Christianity isn’t all rainbows and lollipops. Sometimes it’s hard and occasionally, it’s really hard. We in the United States have been fortunate in that we live in a country where it’s still pretty easy to be a Christian. Oh, we may gripe and complain about it, but we’re not being rounded up and sent off to camps. The problem with this is that it tends to produce weak Christians. We can talk a good game, but if our faith is truly put to the test, do we hold up under the pressure?
A good analogy of this is iron. Plain cast iron out of the furnace is brittle and fairly weak. If it’s struck, it tends to shatter rather than bend. It lacks malleability and once poured into a shape, is difficulty to reshape. On the other hand, wrought iron is ductile and much easier to work with and shape. It bends rather than breaking and is far easier to work into new shapes and tools. So, you ask, what does this have to do with my Christian walk? Well, the answer is in how you get from cast iron to wrought iron. The lump of iron is reheated in the furnace and pounded with hammers, working the impurities in the metal from the inside to the outside. When it cools, it’s put back into the furnace, heated, and then pounded some more. This process eventually produces a solid bar of wrought iron, ductile and with the impurities largely removed.
In our walk with the Lord, we go through a similar process. We are typically born again in the great heat of a trial, at this point, we’re Christians, but we’re weak, brittle and inflexible. It’s all too easy for our faith to be shattered. But then, God allows carefully chosen trials to come our way, knowing what we can and cannot bear. These reheat our faith and allow the impurities to be pounded out. Each time we come through a trial, we’re a bit stronger, less brittle and more flexible. And then, once our faith has been transformed into wrought iron, ductile and strong, God takes it to the next level. He starts to turn our faith to steel, again with the heat and pounding of trials, but now, He adds a bit of wisdom and love to the metal, just as a smith adds a bit of carbon to the iron to turn it into steel. He folds our life back on itself, strengthening and tempering it to a strong and flexible tool for Him to use.
That’s why James tells us to “count it all joy” when we experience trials and tribulations. God doesn’t tempt us and He doesn’t send the trials our way, we can get ourselves into trouble quite easily enough, frankly. But, He does make use of those trials and tribulations to temper our faith, to strengthen us in Him. He’ll never send us more than we can bear, we just have to trust His wisdom and judgement. Personally, I’ll take God’s judgement over mine any time, I may not always agree with His path for me at any given moment, but I do know that He always has my interests at heart in the the long run. And for God, the long run is eternity.