As James begins his discussion of troubles, notice his word choice: “when troubles . . . come your way” (James 1:2, emphasis added). His use of “when” here tells us troubles are inevitable for all of us. James doesn’t say “if troubles come” or “when troubles come to somebody else” or “in the unlikely event that a trouble or two crosses your path.”
It’s when, not if.
James has both feet in reality, and he wants his brothers and sisters in Christ, including you and me, to know that troubles are inescapable.
Because of our human nature, though, we don’t want to believe it. Whole heresies have been founded on the falsehood that troubles are only for weak or disobedient Christians, people who don’t have enough faith to thwart suffering, sickness, trials, and troubles. Then, when those inevitable troubles do come (and they always do), guess whose fault it is? Yours, they say, because you didn’t have enough faith. Or you had too much sin in your life. Or you failed to confess your troubles away with a powerful “word of faith.”
Thankfully, most of us haven’t been hoodwinked into that name-it/claim-it, health-and-wealth heresy. But a common characteristic among believers is the desire to find a more pleasant detour around trials or even to run away from them. We may seek to fill our lives with enough busyness to muffle the noise. Or we may try to drink or smoke difficulties away or turn to pills or other man-made means of numbing the pain.
But we can’t get away from troubles.
We may not have the same struggles as someone else, but we will have struggles of some sort. That’s why James says, “Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way” (emphasis added). The word translated “of any kind” is the Greek term poikilos. It means “diverse, variegated, many-colored.” The NASB translates the term as “various.”
Odds are, you don’t have to think long to come up with a list of troubles. You may have experienced anything from car trouble or broken bones to job loss or financial difficulties, rebellious children or marriage failure, chronic illness or betrayed trust. And the feelings that accompany these troubles—feelings of rejection, insecurity, guilt, shame, depression, worry, rage, and envy—can cast long, lingering shadows over our lives. Regardless of the severity or duration of our troubles, we will all experience them.
God knows your circumstances right now. He knows the various troubles you’re experiencing—those that come and go and those that come and stay. In fact, when God the Son walked this earth, He endured the same kinds of trials, temptations, and sufferings we endure. Because God calls us His children (see John 1:12; Romans 8:14), I can assure you that He will faithfully lead you by the hand through your darkest valley (see Psalm 23:4). Romans 8:28 says, “We know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.”