Saturday, February 23, 2013

The first three...

We are breaking James down into three verse bites; with each of us taking a turn at the lead post.  Since each prefer a different version, we will post our version of the verses first, followed by our commentary.  It so happens that James 1:4 is my favorite verse, so I was elected to take the first three!

James 1:2-4 (Amplified)
2 Consider it wholly joyful, my brethren, whenever you are enveloped in or encounter trials of any sort or fall into various temptations.
3 Be assured and understand that the trial and proving of your faith bring out endurance and steadfastness and patience.
4 But let endurance and steadfastness and patience have full play and do a thorough work, so that you may be [people] perfectly and fully developed [with no defects], lacking in nothing.

I first came upon these verses as a point of promise (something I could depend on as being true in my life) as a teenager.  Gawky, gangly, socially an outcast and towering over others, I had decided dating could wait.  Not that I didn't want to date, but it seemed so improbable, making it a choice was easier than rejection.  I made a list of prospective husbandly traits, written in blue marker and done by candlelight.  I told God that this was what I wanted in a husband (not a boyfriend) and that I was content not dating as I erroneously believed I would never have a broken heart.  In searching scripture, my eyes lighted on James 1:4.  "let patience have her perfect work, so that you may be fully developed and lack nothing." (the paraphrase I still think of it in!) I would patiently wait for my husband.  Then I would lack nothing on my list.

My first husband came along when I was 20.  Pulling out the dogearred list hours after our engagement, I wept happy tears as I was able to check off all my hopes for a husband my new fianc√© possessed.  At our wedding at age 21, it was on this page if the Bible, with this verse clearly showing, that we posed our newly ringed hands.  Patience had taken and made a perfect work.

But what of verses 2 & 3?  Count it all JOY when the world is falling apart?

That came into play just 2 1/2 years later, when in my fifth month of pregnancy my husband was diagnosed with brain cancer.  He entered hospice care four days before our daughter was born.  He could not remember her birth for the first few weeks, and kept asking why we had a baby in our house.  He died 3 months later.

Joy.  The emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune or by the prospect of possessing what one desires.  What joy was there in a dying husband?  One who couldn't seem to grasp his daughter's birth?  Of being widowed at 24?

Count it wholly joyful.

It's a choice, you see.  When accounting, you chose to put the sum in the debit or credit column.  In life, you choose to see it as joy or trial.

As I was wheeled out of the hospital by my mother and sisters, I clung to joy.  My husband wasn't with me-but I could choose to make the memory sweet.  I put two bonnets on my newborn baby girl (the one I wore home from the hospital, and the winter one she needed) and we laughed at my determination she'd wear my summery little frock in January.  At home I chose to enjoy my husband reliving the news over and over that his child had been born.  I enjoyed those winter days and evening snuggled up on the coach (we could no longer sleep together- our room was on the second floor, so our dining room was converted) and having him here, somewhat comfortable.  Days before he entered the hospital he looked at our sleeping baby and said simply, "You know?  I love her." Somehow, despite the sickening cancer, she had crept into his heart.  

He spent five weeks in the critical care unit.  The baby wasn't allowed in his room.  I spent hours by his side, reading scriptures and singing and talking to him.  (I honestly think he lived longer, pulled to stay by our bond.) Was it horrible?  Moments were; but overall I knew that I knew that I knew-no matter what his outcome-whether he lived or died-I would be ok.  "know that the proving of your faith brings out endurance, steadfastness and patience...and let patience have her perfect work, so you may be fully developed and lack nothing." My choice of Joy made it bearable.

After his death, I spent many an evening contending with God.  Many a day I had to make a choice for joy, instead of grief.  Having a baby made it easier-how can one not find joy in a baby's firsts?

I remarried two years later, and we'll celebrate fifteen years together in April.

If I don't kill him first.

Lately, I have to remind myself to choose joy.  To count it wholly joyful when you want to strangle your spouse, lash out at coworkers, smack your kids & tear up the mounting bills.  Real life isn't as dramatic as the death of a spouse, so perhaps that is why it's harder to have joy in the everyday trials. As I have grown in my faith, I have learned that it seems to get particularly bad right before a big breakthrough...we must be on the verge of something major!!  My endurance is about shot, I'm unsteady instead of steadfast, and my patience is wearing thin.  And then Paula picks up the Book of James, and the first three verses are assigned to me.

2 Consider it wholly joyful, my brethren, whenever you are enveloped in or encounter trials of any sort or fall into various temptations. 3 Be assured and understand that the trial and proving of your faith bring out endurance and steadfastness and patience.

But wait!  I am to choose joy, then to be ASSURED that this trial BRINGS OUT endurance, steadfastness and patience.  

4 But let endurance and steadfastness and patience have full play and do a thorough work, so that you may be [people] perfectly and fully developed [with no defects], lacking in nothing.

At the end of it, we will be people perfectly and fully developed, lacking in nothing.  It is my choice to believe this Word is true.  My choice to have faith in this promise.  My choice to consider it joy-The prospect of possessing well being (even though lately things seem grim.). To me, these verses are a command with a promise; a blueprint for success in battle.  Writing tonight of past victories through this use of joy has reminded me again of His promise.  Perfect and entire, lacking nothing.

1 comment:

  1. Katie Cornelius, you precious gem. How blessed I am to know you. First, thank you a thousand times over for sharing the story of your late husband. I read your words through wet eyes. I have never heard the story before.

    When I first read these verses in James, Katie came to mind. Katie is one who perseveres under any circumstance. Whereas I have a tendancy to give up when the going gets rough, Katie views every challenge as a new adventure. Katie=perseverance!

    Perseverance is discussed several times in the bible, sometimes using different words to describe this same phenomenon of "outlasting," if you will, the pain and suffering you may be experiencing, in an attempt to make it to the other side where joy and peace abound! I am reminded of 1 Peter 5:6-11, which just so happen to be MY favorite verses in the bible. I will not recite them all here, but after Peter charges the Christians living in the Northern part of Asia Minor to be humble, casting all anxieties on God and to be self-controlled, resisting the temptations of satan, he says, in verse 10, "And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast."
    It seems to me that Peter is basically saying the same thing here. PERSEVERE!! You will be rewarded! James, of course, takes it a step further in telling us that not only are we called to persevere, but we are called to do it with joy and view it as a blessing!

    In Hebrews, the author who penned the letter reminds the Jewish Christians of the suffering and persecution they had endured because of their faith. He directs them, saying, "Do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised." Hebrews 10:35-36.

    Revelations discusses what happens to anyone who follows "the beast" and, trust me, you DON'T want to go there! I had nightmares after reading Revelations, but in Chapter 14: 12, John reminds us that avoiding the beast "...calls for patient endurance on the part of the saints who obey God's commandments and remain faithful to Jesus." Yet another reminder that as a strong and faithful servant of Christ, endurance, similar to perseverance, is paramount in becoming mature and complete in our faith. Let's face it folks, the enemy does lurk, "prowl[ing] around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour." 1 Peter 5:8b. This world and all its temptations leave us, as Christians, no other choice but to put on the full armor of God in order to endure, or persevere, so that when the race is over and Christ comes in His final victory, we may be wearing His glorious seal. All honor and glory to Him!!

    ReplyDelete