Originally published December 5, 2016
It’s In the opening chapter of the Letter of James, in talking about the trials we face, James says: “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given to him” (James 1:5).
What does wisdom have to do with trials?
God gives us wisdom to trust in him in the face of trials.When we’re in trials, the onus isn’t on us to figure it all out on our own, to understand all that’s going on.
We aren’t called to have the answer for all of our trials and struggles. We are to consider and to count it joy when we are in trials because of the work that God is doing. But seeing his purposes, seeing God in the struggles, for that, we do need wisdom.
There are numerous Proverbs that talk about God granting wisdom. Proverbs 2:6 says “The Lord gives wisdom.” He points us to his promises, his goodness, his salvation. He can point us to the hope that is found in the gospel and grant a peace that surpasses all understanding.
James continues in verse 6: But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.
I live in Minnesota, the land of 10,000 lakes. The water and waves are constantly changing, even through the course of a day. Sometimes the waters can be very calm and still. On a day when there’s no wind, it’s incredible how still the water is. It’s like a mirror. Other times the water is really choppy. And the imagery of waves that James is using: to be walking in doubt, constantly varying and changing. One moment walking in faith, the next moment doubting God’s goodness, or his plan, or his existence. The winds of situations blowing us too and fro, totally out of control in our faith, totally depending on conditions instead of cultivating an internal relationship and pursuit of God.
And we see part of the problem in verses 7 and 8:
For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.
James says that the person who’s doubting is like a wave of the sea, and here that person is called double-minded. Trusting God, not trusting God. Trusting God, not trusting God. Trust, no trust, trust, no trust.
We are following God or we are not. If we keep jumping between trust and doubt, we can’t expect to grow in wisdom or an insights of our situations.
The point isn’t that the slightest feeling of doubt ever means that God is not going to respond or be there. But if doubting and failing to trust God is a way of life, and just part of our outlook whenever things aren’t going exactly as we want them to go, there’s no blessing in that. And through a trial, there can be ebbs and flows of emotion. We might thrash at first, but when we’ve had some time, to know that God is at work. Trusting in God needs to be our general disposition
So when we face trials, we are able to turn to God to seek wisdom, through faith without doubting. When we turn to God in doubt, then we are doubting his goodness. Again, God’s purpose is not to give us a life totally free from any difficulty. We will have that one day, but he is growing us in holiness until that time.
This actual trust is what separates the men from the boys, when it comes to faith. K.A. Richardson talks about how there is no middle ground between faith and unbelief. We aren’t called to be double minded but to be single minded and totally focused on God.
We trust God in struggles and that trust is part of what helps us grow in faith.
But our overall disposition when we come to God needs to be to trust him. Not to be wishy washy, one week trusting in God, but keeping him on a short leash if we don’t get the immediate result we want, or the answer we want, to the relief we want. But even in spite of confusion, even when things don’t make sense, to keep on turning to God and looking to God.
Maybe you’re in a tough place with work right now. Your boss doesn’t seem to appreciate you. You’re overdue for a promotion, but it’s where God has you now. In that trial, in that period of frustration, to turn to God.
Trials are opportunities where we can grow with God or turn from God. Trials are situations where we can grow in holiness or fall into sin, depending on the choices we make.
Turning to God in wisdom of how to live, and wisdom of how to approach life, and the wisdom to recognize that God is good, always. And while trials and seasons are not always what we want, they are always intended for good.
We need to be intentional about staying in faith, not being moved by the current of life. Not being double minded, playing both sides with God, but having a steadfast trust in what God is doing in our life.