The Bible doesn’t varnish over the rough realities of life with a thick coat of empty clichés. God’s Word meets the truth of unbudging troubles head-on. Scripture speaks often of the bruises of adversity. In the Psalms, King David reminds all the faithful through the ages that “the afflictions of the righteous are many” (Psalm 34:19, NASB).
In the New Testament, the apostle Paul, ever the realist, reminds us that “we are afflicted in every way” and “perplexed”—at a loss, confused (2 Corinthians 4:8, NASB). In the twisted maze of our prolonged troubles, we don’t know which way to turn. How easy it is to feel lost!
As we’re buffeted by tests and trials, the book of James offers help with profoundly realistic insight. When we open this letter, written to “Jewish believers scattered abroad” (James 1:1), most of us don’t realize how deeply those first-century Jewish Christians were “bruised with adversity.”
Jews who had accepted Jesus as their long-awaited Messiah survived in a sort of no-man’s-land. On the one hand, their own people wanted nothing to do with them because they appeared to have forsaken the law of Moses—apostasy! On the other hand, the Gentiles despised them because they refused to sacrifice to the Gentile gods, observe their festivals, or worship at their temples—blasphemy! As a result, persecution broke out against those early Jewish Christians. Not only were they deprived of their liberty and livelihoods, but many of them also lost their lives for choosing to follow Jesus.
James wrote his brief letter to these first-century wretched souls bruised by adversity, but his immortal words continue to speak to all of us who are bruised by various troubles that come and stay.
Offering encouragement and comfort, James answers four questions about troubles, which are as relevant today as they were in the first century.
- First, who will face troubles?
- Second, what is the purpose of troubles?
- Third, how do we handle troubles?
- Fourth, when we’ve handled troubles correctly, what then?
Exploring these questions lies ahead of us in the days to come.
But by way of preview and summary, if we embrace James’s insightful principles regarding trials, if we ask God for wisdom to think about them properly, and if we rely on His power to endure them, we can go from wretched souls bruised with adversity to wise souls matured through adversity. By God’s grace, I’ve experienced this kind of transformation in my own life.
It’s what I would hope for you, as well.