Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”– Mark 6:31

A Quiet Place In The Country

Some people seem to thrive on the busyness of life. They are always in a constant state of movement. Running to the next scheduled event and always running behind just a bit. Their schedules are overbooked and overfilled with barely enough time to stop for a lunch break.

And it is not just busy CEO’s who cram every second of their busy schedules. Sometimes it is moms or dads or even the children who barely have time to breathe. For many of us, regardless of our jobs or titles, we can, at some points in our lives, just get over busy, over planned, and over worked. And while some people seem to thrive on it, too much of busyness and rush can take a toll on us. We need a break. We need a vacation. We need a quiet place in the country.

Reality is that even the country can be busy and noisy, (animals, farm machinery, etc) but compared with the constant noise and rush of urban areas, it does appear quieter. And many people seek out places in the countryside to visit at or even to purchase. It becomes a getaway from the hustle and bustle. A place to rest. A place to finally breathe and make room to think and relax.

I have found that I am especially sensitive to too much noise. I like visiting cities and do enjoy the fast pace of them. I actually like airports too, because I get to observe all the people coming and going in a hurry. It can be energizing for me. But after a awhile, I too, am longing for some peace and quiet. Too many loud voices, sirens and car horns can get to be too much.

Especially loud people in otherwise quiet restaurants, where I am trying to relax and enjoy a nice meal. Anybody agree? People, please use your inside voices when inside a restaurant and no, we, and I am speaking for my fellow diners, do not want to hear your entire phone conversation on speakerphone! Nor do we like listening to a one sided, blue tooth conversation as you appear to be talking to yourself.

Okay, so now that we have cleared that up, let’s look at the verse above. Jesus called the disciples aside and told them to go and find a quiet place. To eat. To rest. And to get away from the crowds. A secluded place. A place in the country.

Why? because they apparently did not have time even to eat. The crowds were demanding more and even following the group. They had recently come back from a ministry trip that must have been exhausting and had recently gotten news of John the Baptists beheading. For which they also went and retrieved the rest of his body for burial.

As Mark writes this Gospel, he records this event right before the feeding of the five thousand. Makes sense to me then that this was important. This rest before the gathering of the large crowd to feed. I wonder what this would have looked like if the disciples hadn’t had the time of rest. To refresh their bodies and their spirit. It would be like trying to run on empty. The very thing we often find ourselves doing. Just pushing through it, grabbing a protein bar or fast food, instead of finding a quiet place to relax and enjoy our meal. Or maybe it is working through all our vacation days. Maybe it is failing to say no to others, even though we know our schedule is already too full.

We cannot run on empty. We, like the disciples need to rest in order to prepare ourselves for what God has next. We need seclusion and quiet. The English Standard Version bible replaces the word quiet (found in the NIV Bible) with a desolate place. It is an interesting choice of words, but maybe carries a greater meaning. A desolate place gives an image of nothing else around. Completely secluded. No internet, No cell phones.

Jesus himself often went away to secluded places to pray to the Father. He too, needed to separate Himself from the busyness. If Jesus found a quiet place in the country, why should we think we are being more spiritual or more holy when we try to press though our schedules and sacrifice our quiet time with God, or with just the simple act of eating and taking care of our physical bodies. Let’s follow Jesus and find that quiet, secluded space. – God Bless, Nancy

No Rest For The Weary

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest– Jesus

I’ll be honest, I used to think that ” I’m taking a mental health day” was just an empty phrase made up by millennials to get out of their responsibilities. I recall the somewhat recent event from the Olympics when gymnast Simone Biles stepped out of competition for “A mental health issue”. I admit that I was a bit critical of the decision, having grown up in the just suck it up generation. Push through. Tough it out. You’ll get through this. All phrases from said generation. “I’m a bit of a boomer/gen x’er, depending on what dates you use to classify it.)

That is, until recently when I began a new temporary job. I found myself needing a “Mental health day” And I can completely sympathize now with Simone Biles and others. Smart people recognize their limitations, both physically and mentally. It’s not a weakness, but rather a humbleness. We cannot do everything, or be everything to others without it showing up in our physical bodies or in our mental state.

We are not just spiritual or just physical, but as I and others believe more of a tripart being: spirit, soul (mind, will and emotions) and physical. All three work together and when one part suffers, the others will follow. For example if we are feeling stressed or anxious, often we will feel physical symptoms such as tightness in our neck, headaches and even stomach issues. Those who have panic attacks often describe them as feeling like a heart attack. The symptoms we experience are all trying to tell us there is something wrong. Something we must deal with. It is amazing to ponder how God has created our bodies to work in unison. We only need to listen to our bodies. And also understand what they are saying. We can cover up our symptoms through medicines, but what we really need is to give ourselves a break and time to stop and work through what is the root cause of our physical and emotional issues.

This takes time and prayer. We can’t rush through the process. We must learn to slow down at times and give our problems to God. Jesus promises to give us rest, but are we taking Him up on the offer?

This world is constantly moving at a faster and faster pace. We are being expected to perform our duties as if we were automated robots. No wonder there are so many robotic uses in the work place- robots do not need mental health days. Artificial intelligence can function without emotion- although I wonder if it will become so perfect in its imitation of the human brain, that someday it will experience mental fatigue and need a break. Probably not, but even self- driving cars make errors and cause accidents- because they cannot account for human beings on the road.

It is interesting to me that as I am understanding the need for my own mental health, I have been reading a book by author Bonnie Gray- “Finding Spiritual Whitespace”. I admit at first I didn’t get the title of the book. What is white space? I thought. But, let me recommend this book if you have been going through any type of anxiety or panic attacks. I am nearing the end of the book, and I am realizing that I need to allow Jesus to help carry my burdens. It easy to say that. Or write about it as I am doing here in this blog, but in reality, I’m still trying to carry it by myself.

Unlike all the garden flags and bumper stickers that keep telling me”God’s Got This” (a left over from Covid lock down days here in the US), what I keep saying silently, to myself is “I got this!” . When in realty; I don’t got this. Yes, sorry for the bad English grammar. When I began to feel physically sick, I needed to heed the warnings; take a break, and prepare my heart to listen. Quiet my soul, shut the world out and just wait to hear from God.

As I have counseled others in the past in similar situations, some jobs are just not worth it. If it means selling your soul and letting your physical body and your spirit keep taking the punches wielded at you. Life is hard to be sure. It is not an easy place to live out our lives in the fallen world we are calling a temporary home. There are days of difficulty. There will be pain, heartache and stress that we cannot control. But if we are smart we will not try to deal with it on our own. We will give it to Jesus and not be afraid to rest- even if that means taking a mental health day. If you still do not like that phrase, then call it a spiritual health day. Your mind, spirit and body will thank you and you will be more effective for the Kingdom. – God Bless- Nancy

Calling On Help

“We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia.We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death.” -Paul 2 Corinthians 1:8-9, New International Version Bible.

So, two things I wanted to share with you today. The first are my thoughts about Paul and the second about going it alone in our faith walk.

I’ve always thought of the apostle Paul as this powerful, strong Christian. He had difficulties in his ministry- shipwrecks, beatings, arrests, and ultimately death. Yet he kept a good attitude. He was strong, fearless, you might say. Yet, as I read the above passage from Paul’s letter to the church at Corinth (his second letter), I saw something new that I hadn’t noticed before. Paul admitted he felt defeated at times.

Perhaps it was in the translation from the newer NIV, but nonetheless, I thought it was interesting. He wanted to inform the church just how bad things had been. To share with them. Just what they might expect also. No glossing over it. Just honesty. Paul, the strong man of God shared that he felt that he couldn’t endure. It was beyond his ability. He felt like he was going to die. He sounds depressed even. Yet, he shared this with the church. Further on Paul mentions his focus on God and the help of the prayers of the church in verse 11. He specifically mentions “As you help us by your prayers.”

This really spoke to me this past week, as I found myself in a stressful situation. I felt overwhelmed. Desperate even. My mind was a wreck and I just could not remain calm or think clearly. But, in one moment of clarity I reached out to an online prayer group I belong to, asking for prayer. No specifics, just to pray for me. Later I realized as more and more fellow prayer warriors began to comment on my request, I began to sense God’s peace in the situation. Bible verses began to pop up in my email from other sources I follow that gave me the direction I needed to handle the situation. Including the above passage.

Now, to the second part; I need to admit that I kind of cringe every time I hear the “lone wolf”, or “can’t do the Christian life alone” sermons. They tend to guilt people into getting involved with church groups beyond Sunday mornings. Don’t get me wrong, these groups are necessary. Small groups help us to grow in our faith. Small groups keep us accountable and I have led many of these groups. So, I don’t criticize them, just the tactics of some pastors to use the lone wolf sermons to fill their groups, or find volunteers for children’s church. They really should focus on how much we need to support each other. Welcome people to join, not guilt people to join.

Which brings me to my stressful week and how I realized we NEED each other. But, most importantly, we also need to be free to share our struggles. Not gloss over anything. We need to be informed when one of us is hurting. We also need to feel to feel we can share when we are hurting. Too often, we smile and fake it at church. We need to follow Paul’s example instead. Be open about struggles. Be accepting of those struggling. Ask for prayer. And to actually pray for others instead of promising we will and forget all about it later. This is doing life together. This is welcoming others to share their requests for prayer.

Paul admitted his weakness and his struggles that others would know what to expect in the Christian walk. We need this transparency in churches today. We need this authenticity. We also can be encouraged that prayer does change things. We can offer up prayers for one another in support. God Bless- Nancy

At A Loss For Words

She passed. Two words with the power to break me to my knees. I knew it was coming, but the words had interrupted my dinner and I pushed back my plate. My stomach began to tighten and I no longer was hungry. I tried to calm myself enough to respond to the person on the other end of the phone. My voice was shaky, but I managed to utter “Okay”.

No matter how long someone has graced this planet, death still hurts. It leaves an absence in our lives. Certain people touch our lives to the point where they have been a part of who we are, of who we have become. They inspire us and mold us, acting as a foundation, a pillar if you will. When they die, we feel the foundations of our lives shake and wobble, like a tremor. We can no longer seek out their advice or tell them of our latest accomplishments for which we are proud. There is an empty place now that they use to fill.

We can’t go through this life without feeling this emptiness caused by the death of someone we were close to. We know it and understand the finite quality of this life. As Christians who believe in eternal life, we know that this is not the end. If those who died had accepted Jesus as Savior, we will see them again. there is hope and yet, still; we will hurt. We will miss them. We will grieve. This is normal and how we are hard- wired by our Creator God to feel grief. It is okay to cry and grieve over our loss.

But, if you are on the other side of grief, the person who has not experienced the loss, what do you say? Your friend, spouse, neighbor, co- worker has lost someone and you find yourself at a loss for words. We have all been there. A simple “Sorry” doesn’t seem right. But, it is actually perfect.

My Aunt died this week so this hurt is fresh and raw. I have been jolted back to a place of sadness that I felt a few years ago when my mom died. Those familiar feelings of an empty space. Of sorrow. Of grief. And I find myself wanting to be comforted. A hug, kind words and asking me how I’m doing is what I really want.

Her death and my loss, have brought me to a place where I wanted to share what to say and not to say, when someone is grieving. I hope it will help you to know what to say. First, say sorry. Please ask how I am. Please ask how did she die. Please ask what she meant to me. Please ask if you can pray for me and what to pray. Please ask if I need anything. Please ask me to share a memory of her, and listen as I cry, laugh, and vent. Please spend time with me and not rush off because it feels uncomfortable for you; it’s uncomfortable for me too. Please ask if there is anything you can do.

And for the don’t s. Please don’t tell me she is in a better place. Don’t tell me she was old, as if it is comforting. Please don’t say as least you had a long time with her. Please don’t tell me I’ll see her again. Please don’t tell me she is at peace.

These are all true. I know it, but it is not what I need at the moment. She is fine. It is me who is grieving. Grieving takes time. It is not a quick thing. It isn’t easy. Tell me it is hard. Tell me that death is not good. Tell me it sucks. Come along side me and grieve with me. And you will not be at a loss for words. God Bless You- Nancy

A Little More

Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ– Paul to Timothy, 2 Tim. 1:2

Have you ever felt like you just needed a little bit more? More strength, more energy, more peace, more time, more money, more health, more patience, more trust, more confidence, more love, more mercy. The list could go on and on I’m sure with whatever the “more” is that you think you need.

We all experience these seasons of drought in our lives. Those times when we feel like we are lacking in an area. Maybe its an area of trials and struggles. We all have them. And in those times we either want the trial to end or we just want a little bit more to get through the trials.

Sometimes it isn’t really a trial and it just appears as if it were when in reality we have just become too complacent. We want something new and we believe that if we just had more money we would be able to buy that something new that seems to be the answer to all of our problems. Until a few weeks later when it becomes just another old item to us. We often impulse buy because we think we need what someone else has, when in reality it was more of a want than an actual need.

Or maybe we are dealing with a difficult person a want more patience and peace, except maybe we are the difficult one, not the person we believe is causing us impatience.

Our view on life can make us think we are lacking when in reality we are not. We have everything we need. We have the strength, peace, patience, money, grace, mercy, time, health, love, confidence, etc.

When the apostle Paul was writing to Timothy, the pastor of a church in Ephesus, Timothy was struggling. There were people in the leadership of the church who were trying to change the message of the Gospel. There were power struggles and some of these leaders were even causing Paul trouble with the Roman government, leading to Paul’s arrest. Young pastor Timothy was discouraged and intimidated by these power hungry false teachers. He probably was feeling like giving up. Paul mentions Timothy crying in this letter, so he recognized the depth to Timothy’s despair.

I’m sure Timothy was wanting a little bit more; more strength, more wisdom and more peace in dealing with these rogue church leaders. Paul gave him something better; he gave him encouragement.

We all need people like Paul in our lives to remind us that in Christ we have everything that we need. In Christ, we have grace, mercy and peace. We have patience and love. We have wisdom and strength. We have a provider. We have a comforter. We have someone who understands the struggles of this life. We have a companion who is always with us. In Christ, we have it all, we do not need a little bit more. May we be reminded of this today, as I was, and pass it forward to encourage one another. -God Bless, Nancy

Beautiful Feet

“How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” Romans 10:15

I’ve never thought of my feet as beautiful. In fact, I’ve kind of had this love/hate relationship with my feet. They keep me balanced, enable me to walk from one place to another, and give me a place to put my socks and shoes. That’s the love part. But they also bring me problems like blisters and plantar fasciitis, a broken toe, and my least favorite- finding shoes that fit. My foot isn’t considered a wide size or a narrow size according to shoe manufacturers, but it is a bit of both; a narrower heel and a wider toe area. And don’t get me started about size. Shoe sizes in the US are measured roughly in inches, but are not so accurate and all the cute women’s shoes are found in smaller sizes and not in my larger shoe size. My husband always tells me that I have a popular size, since it is usually the one size that is always out of stock in the stores. Maybe. Either way, I’m not sure if my feet are beautiful, just functional.

But God thinks they are. At least from the viewpoint of sharing the Good News. As Paul wrote the verse from above in his letter to the Romans, he was using it in the context of those sent to reach others with the Gospel; the Good News. The news that would give the people hope and joy. He referred to a passage from Isaiah 52:7 which prophesied the coming Messiah.

We probably don’t think about messengers traveling about on foot, bringing news- good or otherwise- as was common in Isaiah’s time or Paul’s in which letters were written and then hand delivered and read aloud. We are use to messages being sent through the internet or text. Oh we still have deliveries in person, like the mail (or post), or Amazon, or Doordash, or Uber eats or similar delivery and we get excited for these good things brought to our doorstep.

We might even look forward to these special deliveries, either the delicious food we are anticipating or the long desired items we ordered. As in Isaiah’s day, the people looked forward to someday being delivered from their bondage, delivered from sin, when the messiah would come. Isaiah’s Good news was the redeemer was coming; Paul’s Good news; He had come.

Our Good News he has come to deliver us and will come again. For now we can have peace with God through belief and trust in Jesus Christ. We can overcome being in bondage to our sins- the stuff we struggle with, it does not have to have power over us any more, thanks to the leading, directing,instruction and even comfort of the Holy Spirit. We also can look forward to the time of Jesus’ return with great anticipation when everything will finally be made right. A time with no more death or crying. No more wars.

We, as believers are all called to share this Good News, this great hope we have that the future is not dim, but hopeful. We all have beautiful feet! Not just those with the cute, small feet that fit into those perfectly cute shoes. Not just those who are pastors or missionaries. But all feet.

It is the message that makes the feet of the messenger beautiful. Let us keep on sharing this Good News, and encouraging one another on this faith journey. -God bless you, Nancy

Desiring Peace

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. -John 14:27, NIV

I don’t know about you, but speaking for myself, my biggest desire at the moment is for peace. Peace for the world, definitely, but peace in my life as well. I believe we all are feeling angst and a bit uncertain as to what the future holds. We have come out of a world wide pandemic- or at least we are hopeful we have, but just when one difficulty passes, another seems to always take its place. It seems as if we are always on the edge of a cliff , or at the top of a roller coaster, about to plunge into the depths of difficulty, whether health, finances, war, or supply shortages.

As long as we live in the world and take a breath, this world will never be at peace for long. But, as noted in the verse above- our peace isn’t supposed to be found in this world. The peace the world gives is temporary. The peace of Jesus is different. It is His peace. But, what does that mean? In context, Jesus was addressing His disciples about events that were about to take place, namely His death, resurrection and ascension back to heaven. they were about to experience a lot of trouble- but He promised them it would be better. For He would be leaving them, but sending the Holy Spirit to comfort and teach them. We as believers also have this promise from Jesus with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit when we accept Christ as Savior.

Jesus knew the disciples would be upset with His death and would probably not fully understand what was happening so He prepared them. If you want to read the passage in context, I suggest reading the entire chapter fourteen of John’s gospel.

Chapter 14 begins “Do not let your hearts be troubled.” This is a powerful verse. Too often I find myself letting my heart (and my mind) wander from peace and confidence to trouble. The kind of trouble that occupies my thoughts, choking out the peace, faith and confidence that Jesus offers. To get back on track, I stop, take a breath, and pray. Then I pick up my Bible and read God’s truth. And I am reminded that He has a plan for the world. A plan that restores the world to wholeness. To bring shalom. To heal the broken relationship between man and God. To heal the land. To heal creation that suffers as well. Real peace. Amen. God bless you – Nancy

Death To Life

Doubting Thomas. Have you ever thought about how he would compare with you? It might seem like a strange topic for Christmas time, especially Christmas Eve, the day I’m writing this blog. But bear with with me for a moment. When we think of Christmas we mostly think about the cute little baby Jesus in the manger. And the cute nativity scene with the animals- sheep, cows, and camels. and the very peaceful baby sleeping in Mary’s arms. We don’t usually fast forward to Jesus all grown up as a man. We save that for Easter.

When we look at the Christmas story as told in the Gospels, we enjoy the story as a completed picture. We have the perspective that those living at the time did not. Except for Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, the wisemen, and John the Baptist. They all knew who Jesus was when he was born because the angels had visited or in the case of the wisemen, by studying the astrological charts. Everyone else around them, did not know what was happening. They were looking for a Messiah, but they didn’t see who He was when He arrived as the little baby lamb of God. They hadn’t read the gospels, like we have.

Sometimes God is trying to show us what He is doing, but we don’t see it. We lack perspective until we look back and see what He has done. The people of Jesus’ time had been awaiting a savior to free them from their darkness and when He came they did not all realize it, and as He grew to a man, even failed to understand who He was, calling him simply Joseph’s son.

As this advent season gives way to Christmas day, God has been preparing my heart and helping me to understand what He is doing in my life. Piece by piece, step by step, He reveals areas I need growth.

Recently, our beloved family dog died. It was the first dog we had ever had and she died unexpectedly early Sunday morning. My sorrow was deeper than I realized it could be for an animal. It brought back grief and sorrow that I still carry for my Mom who passed on Christmas Day 2014. Christmas can be a very sad time for some, myself included. But, as I was feeling so sad about losing our pet of six years, my thoughts and emotions were jolted in the opposite direction when on Wednesday my daughter and her husband announced their pregnancy. From death to news of life. In three days. Sounds like a familiar story, right? From feeling overwhelmed by the death of a pet, and my mom, to celebrating the upcoming addition to our family. From grief to joy.

God showed me in that moment, how I could be like doubting Thomas. He had just lost His friend, the man He had spent three years following and a presumed lifetime waiting for, like his other fellow Jews. And then He was gone. Thomas was in the middle of grieving and was in shock over the news that Jesus had risen. Jesus was not dead, but had resurrected. How could this be? Was it true? Is this really a change from sadness to joy?

Thomas wanted proof. He wanted to see for himself. Even when Jesus appeared to him later. It was Jesus who offered for Thomas to see the nail prints in his hands. I can finally understand how he felt. A bit of shock. A jolt from his grief into hope. Hopeless to hopeful.

I have a print of my new grandson or granddaughter’s ultrasound. I see him/her. I have anticipation for our meeting. On Sunday, I was grieving, but on Wednesday I celebrated. We just do not know what will happen next. God has it under control. It might seem dark now. But light has come into the world.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through Him all things were made, and without Him nothing was made that has been made. In Him was life, and that life was the light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.– John 1:1-5

Merry Christmas and God Bless You

Casting Call

“Casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.”

-Peter (1 Peter 5:7, ESV)

I have had an on and off again relationship with fishing. I learned how to fish when I was a child, but didn’t really do much fishing until my teens and early twenties. On good days I could send that little bob and lure flying across the water some 60 feet. And on the not so good days, about 3. Those days the bob and lure made a big plunk into the water right in front of me. It was all about the timing and releasing the line on the reel and stopping the line release and extending my arm and swinging the pole. I was definitely not a a pro. To me, it felt the same way whether I cast the line three feet or sixty. I didn’t have a perfect technique to it, so every time the results were different.

The same is true for casting of my anxieties. I’ve read 1 Peter so many times, yet most of the time it feels like those little splunkers in the water. I want to cast it all away. Like sixty feet, like tossing a ball to Jesus. Like “Hey, Jesus, here catch” or “Here’s all my stuff that I’m holding onto and it is bringing so much anxiety, PLEASE, take it here, like NOW.”

But, most of the time I TRY to cast those anxieties and worries, and then mid cast I start thinking about it all, trying to find my own solution, replaying the situations back in my head like a movie reel, and SPLUNK, It doesn’t make it to Jesus, but lands right back a few feet from me, where I will reel it back in to carry myself, once again.

Have you felt this way too? You want to do this, cast your cares, follow Peter’s advice, but you keep falling short. You cast your cares, but somehow they keep creeping back into your thoughts, and grab for attention.

Me too, but one thing I have learned is to keep on casting. The other step is to stop my thoughts mid cast. To concentrate and think about what I am allowing into my thoughts. Not allowing myself to get entangled in them and allow them to be set on auto play over and over again.

I think that is why I like the verse above from the ESV (English Standard Version) version of the Bible. It says casting, like this is an ongoing process, not just a once and done. That is the way it has been for me. It is a constant battle with my anxieties and worries. I keep casting. I do not give up with one bad cast, like from my fishing days- I keep on working on the technique. I don’t have to worry about Jesus not catching (taking on) my anxieties or worries, it just depends on my letting go, extending my arms and releasing them all. He’s got this. -God Bless – Nancy

Meet and Greet

“Consider it all joy, my brothers and sisters, when you encounter various trials,” -James the brother of Jesus Christ

I don’t know about you, but this isn’t one of my favorite memory verses. I mean I can deal with the part about encountering or meeting with trials. I can agree with what James is saying, but the joy part? Well, that’s difficult.

To be honest there are so many different variations of this verse. The one above is from the New American Standard Bible. Others use the words- “fall into temptations” or “whenever trouble comes your way” and even “whenever you face trials of any kind” Regardless, they all seem to agree that it is is not an if but a when. Life is full of troubles and trials. We get that. It is impossible to live this life without them.

I really like the version that uses the word encounter. I was recently reading a devotional from Dr. Charles Stanley of INTOUCH ministries and he compared the word encounter with meeting trials, like you would meet another person. Face to face-. It inspired me to think about this verse in those terms. How do I face trials? Do I greet them as I would a person on the street? As an acquaintance? As an adversary? Welcoming them with joy, seems very counterintuitive. I do not like trials. Why would I greet them as if they are a long lost friend, whom I am excited to be reunited with?

But can I really see them as that? Most of the time I rejoice whenever trials are over. Like whenever I recover from an illness, or when a project that has been trying and time consuming is accomplished and over. But, at the beginning? When I first meet them? If I let my feelings rule, I would run the other way, thank you very much! But, no thank you, I don’t need to greet you today troubles and trials, I think I’ll just turn off the path and avoid you today. But, I fear in doing that I would miss the opportunity for God to be there with me through this awkward introduction and greeting. Avoidance limits the pain, but also limits the joy and comfort I would receive from God.

As we read further on in the book of James, we see that these trials are to strengthen our faith and give us perseverance and mature our faith. These sound very inspiring and give the reader encouragement. Just as it would have for the early Jewish Christians James was writing to who had been scattered away from Jerusalem into the many areas of the Roman Empire. As many scholars believe, James was martyred sometime after writing this letter of encouragement, probably around AD 64. It was not an easy time to be a follower of Christ.

If James were writing the church today, he might have say, “Hey, I know you are going through these trials and difficult times, but just remember they are serving a purpose- to mature your faith, teach you perseverance- something you will definitely need to keep on going. So, welcome them, they are for your benefit. Yes, they are bound to happen, but God’s got this.”

In chapter 1, verse 5, James writes if we are lacking wisdom we should ask God. For many years I have read that verse as a stand alone verse, but this week as I read it again, it began to dawn on me that maybe it closely relates to dealing with the troubles and trials.

You see, that is one of my biggest issues when troubles or trials come. I wonder to myself, “What should I do to handle this, or fix this situation? How do I navigate this? What is my strategy? I also try to figure out if this is something I have brought upon myself, or is it a spiritual attack, or just a life issue? What I need is wisdom in dealing with it all; for discernment, for a pathway through the trial, for a way to handle it, to understand it’s origin, to have a peaceful attitude through it, yup, I lack wisdom on my own, and I need to ask God for wisdom for this trial. I have faith that God will show me what to do, how to navigate this and will bring me out the other side, better not because I will be stronger in myself, but that my faith in God will be stronger, because I will see how He is with me. Not all these trials have quick resolutions, and I need to keep believing – as James adds in verses 6 and 7- but God will come through.

So, these trials are a way for me to be drawn closer to God,to my faith in Him, my reliance on Him to give me wisdom and help me through, to strengthen my perseverance muscle. They are not designed to destroy me, but make me better, to help me mature in my faith, so that I lack nothing (v4).

If we can focus on that, then we can meet and greet trials with a more positive attitude. We can count it joy.

God Bless –

Nancy