I don’t know if it’s the weather that has me slightly depressed or what. I know that we can expect this kind of “spring-like” weather here in Alberta…snow, sleet, drizzle and cold but when the rest of Canada seems to be sweltering under record-breaking warm temperatures, I feel Mother Nature has somehow forgotten all about us Albertans. I told a friend of mine that I grow “snow drops” in my garden…literally…as you can see by the picture I took of my garden last week. Oh the snow has melted a bit, but it still feels like November out there. Brrrrrr!
I can’t help but think that we are in limbo here in Alberta when it comes to weather. We’re not quite out of the winter doldrums and we’re not quite into the spring sunshine. We’re in limbo, caught somewhere in between the two.
I was reading in James this morning. God has kept my husband and I firmly planted in the first chapter of James for the longest while. As I once again read, “consider it pure joy, when you face trials” from James 1, I couldn’t help looking heavenward and asking, “but for how long, Lord?”
Without going into details, we’ve been in one of those valleys that seems to be endless. We’re not ones to wallow in self-pity, we believe God allows his children to go through valleys to learn, to grow, and to REALLY appreciate the mountaintop experiences later. However, I don’t think we ever thought our wanderings through this valley would last this long. I feel like we’re in limbo. We know that if we’re patient and wait it out, we’ll eventually climb out of the valley, but in the meantime we’re wanderers, searching for the right path out and fighting obstacles all along the way…and to tell the truth…it’s wearing me out!
I decided to look up the term “in limbo” and was surprised at it’s meaning. I mean to those of us who love to dance…yes…I’m a rebel dancing Baptist…limbo is a West Indian dance in which the dancers keep bending over backward and passing under a pole that is lowered slightly each time. Wow! “How low can you go?” I can almost hear the music.
In Roman Catholic theology being in “limbo” is the place located on the border of Hell, a place where souls remain that cannot enter heaven…you’re not quite in heaven, and not quite in hell.
And lastly, being in limbo is an unknown intermediate place or condition between two extremes – it’s a state, or a place of confinement. Yep…I can relate!
I believe that is what James is talking about. He was speaking to twelve tribes “scattered” among the nations. They were caught between cultures, they were being persecuted mercilessly for their faith. When James spoke about “trials”, he didn’t specify the types of trials these people were enduring. He lumped all of the trials together. Certainly to the people of the time, he might have been addressing persecution specifically, but for us today, (especially those of us in Canada and the U.S.), “trials” may be health related, job loss, financial burdens, family conflict, etc. etc. James said that suffering trials was a (spiritual) test. The test designed to develop something that was not yet present in full measure in the person going through the trial. If that is indeed the case, once a person had “passed the test” there should be cause for great rejoicing!
What was the faith reward for passing the test? Perseverance. This means that God will give us the ability to endure patiently. “The Christian with this quality of faith does not give up trusting and praying even when the need continues for a long time. Second, the term carries the idea of discipline. The Christian with this quality of faith continues in a disciplined obedience to Christ as Lord even when it requires “a long obedience in the same direction” (Peterson 1980). Third, the term means steadfast faithfulness. The Christian with this quality of faith is not a part-time servant of the Lord Jesus Christ. Making the same point, in fact using the same terms, Paul wrote, “We also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance” (Rom 5:3).” BibleGateway.com
Perseverance, of course is something that stays the course, not just for the trial we are presently going through, but for all the trials yet to come. That is what James means by perseverance developing maturity. “The trials can be opportunities for testing to develop in you the perseverance which, when it finishes its work, will leave you mature in Christ! For those who have set their hearts on becoming Christlike, this is wonderful reason for pure joy.”
I will admit I wish we did not need to go through the trials and testing to develop this spiritual perseverance and maturity. I do however like what vs. 12 states, “Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.” Persevering is worth doing, because the crown of life is worth more than avoiding the trial. We are called to place greater value on the goal of becoming mature and complete in Christ than anything else the world has to offer. That’s pure JOY!