This morning as I was having my quiet time, I was reading the first chapter of the book of James. Here is a book that packs a big wallop. Our Bible study group decided to go through James for the next two months and after three days, I've only managed 12 verses! Yikes!
Today, I read verse 12: 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. (NIV)
I wish that I'd come across this verse while I was working on the last Lavender Vale Farm book, Blessed Gifts, because this would have fit the theme and Ben Brown's dilemma perfectly. Ben is faced with making a rather difficult choice which boils down to taking the easy way, or taking the hard way.
The easy way has it's perks, but it's the hard way that the Lord promises is where we will find our true reward. Which is guess is why James said, Blessed is the man who...
This verse is timely for me. I'm not going to lie, this has been a difficult year for me and my family. Work hours have been cut, causing a financial strain on us while I'm still trying to build my own business and not give up before I really even get started.
Maybe that's why it's taken me so long to get through the first few verses of the first chapter of James. I mean, it starts off saying, "Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds."
"Because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance."
When doing the hard things, perseverance is key because it might be quiet a while before you see that reward, that "crown of life" God promises us.
But then I consider the hard work God put into creating this world. The minute details he crafted. The intricacies found in the web of a spider, a leaf, or frost on glass. He put so much into his creations. As His child, shouldn't I strive to do my best, put forth the effort to cover all the details required to do my work? It's so easy to let things slide. To want to take a "mental health" break (which sometimes is needed, don't get me wrong) But I find that I naturally want to shirk doing the hard, tedious tasks.
Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
We are pushed to the brink, tried over and over, challenged every step of the way...for our own good. Because it does something, I think, in our spirits, that makes us stronger and better. More confident. More steadfast and determined.
While writing Blessed Gifts, the story dealt with this question organically.
I never really sit down and decide from the beginning what theme I want a story to deal with. I do develop an outline, define my characters and work out the major plot points in an attempt to keep things interesting.
But the theme, it seems to grow up as the words turn into sentences which turn into chapters. At some point, my characters and outline take over and these things simply happen. And sometimes my own stories end up speaking to me before they ever reach your hands.
Ben Brown has a choice to make. Every day presents new questions that we need to deal with. And usually, those questions stem from something we did right, or most likely, not so right. Ben made some really bad choices and was trying to do what was right, when he found himself no longer watching the pot boil, but being the egg that was tossed into the pot. So to speak. Ha.
Everything we do has a consequence. That old proverbial ripple effect, right?
There's a scene in the book where Ben is dreaming about what he wanted his life to look like. His dreams. His plans. Then he realizes that if he keeps his son, all those plans will no longer work for him. His son, Toby, will not fit into the life Ben Brown envisioned for himself.
I can't tell you how many times I've closed my eyes and pictured how I wanted things to be. But when I open them, reality sets in and I find that I'm left making those hard choices.
But the rewards... God doesn't lie.
He promises it'll be worth it if we're brave enough to make those hard choices, to stick with whatever He has set us to do. No, it's not easy. But... if we'll hang on....
Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. James 1:17
I ask myself, "Do I truly believe that?" If so, then I'm going to keep on going, even when it doesn't make sense. Even when circumstances don't look good. Even when problems are mounting up like last week's laundry.
Do you believe?
Jackie Castle is an author, artist and dreamer. She lives in Texas with her husband, two grown children and her dog, Banjo. She looks for the extraordinary in the ordinary in everything she experiences.