As today is Thanksgiving in the States (as I write this, anyway), James words struck me as I read them.
Is anyone among you suffering? He should pray. Is anyone cheerful? He should sing praises.
I think most people are quick to pray when they are suffering, sometimes asking why, sometimes asking for relief, often asking for both.
But when we are cheerful, how often is our first response to sing praises to God? To thank him for all he’s done for us. For that matter, how often do we praise him for the simple things in life: family, friends, clothes, a place to live, food?
But it should be said that even in the midst of struggle, we should keep an attitude of praise. The church James was writing to seemed to be having their share of struggles. But earlier in this chapter, James was telling them to remain steadfast. Why? Because the Lord is returning. And because of that, we have hope.
If Jesus were never returning, if he were never going to bring judgment on all the evil in the world, it would be difficult to rejoice. But because he is, even in the midst of trial, we can keep our eyes on the end and know that all will be made right.
What’s more, in the first few verses of his letter, James wrote,
Consider it a great joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you experience various trials, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing. (1:2-4)
All our suffering does have a purpose behind it. It is not meaningless. And in the end, we will see God’s compassion and mercy, even as Job did.
So as Paul wrote to the Thessalonians,
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (I Thessalonians 5:16-18)