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God's wisdom to guide us through hard times

August 30, 2022

Daily Scripture

James 1:2-12

2 My brothers and sisters, think of the various tests you encounter as occasions for joy. 3 After all, you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance. 4 Let this endurance complete its work so that you may be fully mature, complete, and lacking in nothing. 5 But anyone who needs wisdom should ask God, whose very nature is to give to everyone without a second thought, without keeping score. Wisdom will certainly be given to those who ask. 6 Whoever asks shouldn’t hesitate. They should ask in faith, without doubting. Whoever doubts is like the surf of the sea, tossed and turned by the wind. 7 People like that should never imagine that they will receive anything from the Lord. 8 They are double-minded, unstable in all their ways.

9 Brothers and sisters who are poor should find satisfaction in their high status. 10 Those who are wealthy should find satisfaction in their low status, because they will die off like wildflowers. 11 The sun rises with its scorching heat and dries up the grass so that its flowers fall and its beauty is lost. Just like that, in the midst of their daily lives, the wealthy will waste away. 12 Those who stand firm during testing are blessed. They are tried and true. They will receive the life God has promised to those who love him as their reward.

Daily Reflection & Prayer

James led the earliest Christians in the city that had crucified his brother Jesus, who he was now convinced was God’s promised deliverer. No wonder he didn’t say “if you face trials,” but was matter-of-fact about “the various tests you encounter.” God did not then (and does not now) promise “easy.” James focused on the promise of God’s abiding presence with us every day as we become mature, resilient (“tried and true”—verse 12) followers of Christ.

  • James did not write through naïve, rose-colored glasses. He knew human nature is not at all inclined to view tests as “occasions for joy.” In verse 5 he wrote that God will freely give anyone who asks, not abstract “wisdom,” but the wisdom needed to take the long view of life and trust in God’s ultimate goodness. When has God given you wisdom to face tough life challenges? Can you look back and see ways God has “grown you” through hard times in your life?
  • The warning against “doubting” did not mean to ignore honest faith questions. It spoke to anyone who seriously doubts that God is generous, eager to supply the wisdom to trustingly meet trials with steady endurance. “Jewish sages abhorred the hypocrisy of saying one thing and living another way, and speaking or living inconsistently.” * What has helped you learn to trust God’s caring goodness, even when God doesn’t make trials work out the way you wish they would?

Lord Jesus, all by myself I can’t clearly understand this life, especially the tough times. Thank you for promising that you will give me the inner wisdom I need to navigate all of life’s cross-currents. Amen.

GPS Insights

 Denise Mersmann

Denise Mersmann

Denise serves as the Care Coordination Director for the churchwide Care Central department at Church of the Resurrection.

Our family joined Resurrection on July 14, 1996. On July 31st, we added a perfect baby girl to our family. On October 23rd, our baby girl died unexpectedly in my arms while we sat in the doctor’s waiting room. Despite heroic efforts at our doctor’s office and the ER, we went home heartbroken and angry, carrying an empty car seat and a fuzzy pink blanket.

We were suddenly thrown into the “parents whose child has died” group, and there was no way out. As the day went on, we became numb. Nothing felt real and nothing made sense. Why us? We loved this baby; we wanted this baby.

Even now, 25 years later, I remember wandering around our house filled with people. I can’t even tell you how I felt because it was nothing I had ever felt before and certainly never want to feel again. I still cannot find the words to truly describe the emotional upheaval we were in. But in the midst of it all, I felt God’s presence more than I ever had in my life.

God didn’t stop us from hurting, he didn’t keep us from suffering, but He did stay with us every minute. During the worst situation of our lives, there were little glimpses that helped us see how much He loved us.

I’m still not ready to give thanks for this life experience, but I know that God worked through it to make us better people. Through the care and love of friends and family, we learned to more deeply love and care for others. Having felt God’s presence when we were in our darkest time, we are able to confidently tell other people that God will be with them no matter what they are going through. Having our time with Caroline cut so short, so abruptly taught us to say “I love you” a whole lot more often and to cherish moments that we might otherwise have taken for granted.

I know God didn’t give her leukemia. I know he didn’t keep doctors from finding it in time to try to treat it. I also know that in 1996, tiny babies didn’t usually survive leukemia, no matter how early it was detected. I know that my husband cancelling his work trip that week due to weather was a blessing. I know that the power outage the night before that forced us into a family snuggle in front of the fire, with no distractions from the TV, was a gift.

I know that God’s heart ached for us, and I know that He never wanted us to suffer. In the worst moment of our lives, God was there. He made His presence known in so many little ways. And He continues to remind us He is there through the people who, after all these years, still remember Caroline and talk about her. He keeps her memory alive through our family who love each other so intensely. He put friends in our lives, many of whom never met Caroline, who always celebrate her birthday and recognize the day she died.

God used a terrible life experience to show us the depth of His love. He brought others together to love and care for us. He showed us how to better love others. And he taught us that, with Him, we can survive anything.

© 2024 Resurrection: A United Methodist Church. All Rights Reserved.
Scripture quotations are taken from The Common English Bible ©2011. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

* Comment on James 1:8 in NIV, Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible, eBook . Zondervan. Kindle Edition.