In the pre-pandemic days (remember those?) I was sitting at a coffee shop doing some reading and writing, and I couldn’t help but overhear bits of the conversation coming from the table behind me. They touched on different topics—divorce, job problems, their kids’ lives, etc.—but disappointment and concern seem to be resting just beneath the surface.
It’s everywhere, of course, from the coffee shop in the suburb to the mill in a small town to the boardroom in a downtown high-rise. People are struggling. Job woes, health problems, marriage break-ups, rebellious kids, unfulfilled dreams. The list goes on.
We all put on a happy face when we’re in public, and we remove the mask only at certain times in front of certain people. Behind the forced smile is a litany of unspoken concerns:
Will my kids turn out okay? Will this stress ever get better? Will I ever meet life’s demands more consistently? Will my health be okay? What will the future of our country look like?
We’ve come a long way in the last fifty years. We can do things our grandparents never imagined.
But we haven’t removed worry, have we? And we never will, not here, not on this planet, not in this life.
James’s world was different in many ways—different language, different culture, different customs—but they weren’t so different from us.
I know this, at least in part, because of what James writes here:
As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful (James 5:10-11).
James’s people were struggling, and they were asking the question people in every culture and every time have asked: How will I make it through this?
He does the only thing anyone can do: he points them to the Lord. He doesn’t tell them everything will work out the way they hoped. He doesn’t tell them the suffering will stop right now. He simply promises them that a blessing from the Lord awaits everyone who remains steadfast.
Hang in there, he says. The Lord knows, he cares, and he’s got a purpose in all this.
Maybe James’s message hits pretty close to home with you today. If so, I hope you’ll hear him. I hope you’ll see the importance of staying close to Jesus.
We consider those blessed who remained steadfast, James wrote, and that’s the same promise the Lord gives you today.
If you stay steadfast, the Lord will bless you. I hope that comforts you. —Chuck