Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. (James 1:2-4 NIV)
I am sitting here and watching the tide go out - I love even more to sit and watch it come in. Wave after wave washes up onto the shore. I watch the waves rush in furry over the sand. It has such power that you can literally see the sand moving and shifting, the water clearing away and making the area pretty and smooth.
You can't always guess how far the waves will come in each time. You may think you are far enough up to escape them, but then a particular wave comes in farther. If you are in Maine (where I am now), the cold that hits you can literally shock you at first. Then cause pain as it settles into your bones.
It's really a very beautiful thing.
I couldn't help but think of how cleansing it seems and feels. When you become settled into the cold, it actually can be very refreshing.
All I could think was "Consider it pure joy..."
Our lives are often like that. Wave after wave comes into the shore of our lives. The waves threaten to overwhelm us. Shocks our system. Causes deep pain that runs through to the bone.
It's funny to watch people try to "escape" the waves and tide that comes in. Some wait until it nearly overtakes them and their stuff before they scurry away. Others, like my 5yr old and myself, anticipate the entire time at the beach. Do we move now or wait? How far up should we go to miss it? Either way, most don't just sit and let it wash over themselves and their things.
Ironically, we do the same thing when our own "waves" come rolling in. We dread, we anticipate, we wait until it's right upon us...whatever the reaction...many times we run away. We think, if I just move away from the situation, it will go away. I won't feel the difficulty anymore, and it will no longer affect me. Or if I move farther up on the shore, out of the way, it won't reach me. Remove the situation or remove yourself. Then another wave comes, and unexpectedly comes in closer catching us off guard, and we realize it didn't do any good to run away.
If we can stop running away, though, face the waves head on, embrace what they bring, settle in, and let it (God) run it's course - we may discover it's beauty. We may see the good He brings through our difficulty. We might even change for the better.
I have discovered the places where the tide comes in further, the beach is cleaner and more beautiful. Simply because the water washes away the impurities. The water also leaves beautiful remnants of the ocean as well. (And, yes, my 5yr old has convinced me of the beauty of dead crab legs and seaweed.) :)
"Consider it pure joy..." Isn't that what James 1 promises us? Beauty and worth found in the pain and suffering of life. The psalmist also promises us beauty from ashes. That's what God does. He takes the awful situations of our lives, and uses them (if we allow Him) to make something beautiful in us and through us.
We can't run from it though. We can't move away finding another place to camp out until it goes away.
I have seen it in my own life after many great losses. I have ran away, and I have faced it head on. I can confidently say when I faced it head on, let it run it's course - that's when the beauty came.
I wish I had never faced the losses. But I look at my life right now, I look at my heart right now - and it's beauty matches that of this beautiful ocean I am looking at right now. Not by anything I have been able to do on my own, but by God's precious cleansing power. He has washed me clean, and made me precious and beautiful in His sight. It takes work and effort, and sometimes the waves do leave nasty things - but God takes care of those too.
We must face the incoming waves. Let them overtake us. Trusting a God who sees and cares, and is always with us. He may not stop the waves from coming in, but He will always provide grace and strength to withstand them. And what will be left will be smooth, clean, and beautiful.
Considering it pure joy and thanking God for His beautiful handiwork....