Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. (James 1:2–3)
I pretty much love it when things are going well.
I prefer the sunshine over the shadows.
Concerning my wedding vows, I prefer better, richer, and health over worse, poorer, and sickness.
When my children were younger, I preferred obedience to defiance.
If I am honest, however, it’s been the shadows that have made me a better man, a better husband, and a better father. I have a long way to go, but the shadows have helped.
Shadows have a way of doing that.
I’m not sure I am quite at the level of James yet. I struggle calling struggles “pure joy.” The fact remains, however, that the various trials we face have a way of producing a steadfastness in us if we trust in God’s goodness regardless of our circumstances.
Without the shadows that I have experienced, I may lack empathy for others as they grieve the death of a loved one. Without the shadows, I may judge others when their children misbehave in the grocery store. Without the shadows, I may assume that my parenting will predict the path my children take, I may not understand God’s faithfulness to me despite my sinful choices, and I may not understand my call to the shadow of the cross or the light that it produces.
God calls us to bear our crosses and to see our struggles as an opportunity to not only trust in him but also to serve him. He calls us to live under the shadow that the cross casts over all of human history. May we consider these opportunities as a joy for our perfection and for the furthering of His Kingdom.
Heavenly Father, help me see the joy in the shadows. Use them to produce steadfastness in my life. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.