I can remember the first time I took the SAT. Early in the morning barely awake, so nervous I felt like I was going to puke. Here I am ten years later and I can vividly remember it, but I can also look back with the perspective that that test didn't determine the outcome of my life. Ultimately, it didn't matter. It definitely felt like it mattered and that the world was going to end if I didn't do well.
How often do we feel that way through life's little tests? And what about those tests that do matter? What do we do when our faith is shaken to its core? Your child is diagnosed with cancer, your marriage is falling apart, your boss asks you to lie on paperwork, etc. Not only has life given you lemons, it has pelted you with them.
So what do we do? According to Scripture, we rejoice.
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
James 1:2-4 ESV
I don't know about you, but when I'm facing a tough situation, this is not my first reaction. My first reaction is to throw myself a pity party and feel sorry for myself. Woe is me. This is our natural, sinful, human reaction. Scripture calls us to something higher than that, we are to meet trials with joy.
But why? What is there to be happy about when life drags you down? According to James, we come out of faith tests with steadfastness. Unwavering commitment, our faith is strengthened.
Paul takes it a step further in Romans 5.
Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
Romans 5:3-5 ESV
When we suffer, when we are tested, the ultimate end result is hope. A hope that does not disappoint. We have a choice when we are suffering, we can turn inward and throw that pity party or we can turn upward.
looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
Hebrews 12:2 ESV
We can look to Jesus. Or as the NIV says, "fix your eyes on Jesus."
Financial problems? Fix your eyes on Jesus.
Relational issues? Fix your eyes on Jesus.
Temptations? Fix your eyes on Jesus.
We can go through Hell and back and come out strengthened because Jesus did it first.
In tests and trials, look upward, not inward. Jesus is our hope and Jesus will never disappoint us.