Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
I learned these verses seven years ago when I made it a project to memorize the book of James. They're actually James' first words after his greeting, which leads me to believe James was writing to some people having a tough time. Of course, "tough time" is relative - what these guys were dealing with was on a scale of "tough" I've probably never even imagined in my lifetime. Hebrew believers in Yeshua of Nazareth as the Messiah were being harassed on a scale that we have a hard time identifying with, being kicked out of congregations they didn't want to leave, imprisoned by those who claimed the title of "holy" and losing families, homes and livelihoods.
James, the son of Joseph and Mary and one of Jesus' younger brothers, looked at the situation and said, "You know what, guys? This is good for us! Consider this time a joy because it's an opportunity for us to become what God made us to be."
There is a school of thought which says that true faith in God doesn't really strive for anything, that all we need to do is rest contentedly wherever we are and God will just cover everything in our characters he doesn't like so he doesn't see it anymore. Whenever I hear this, I'm reminded of James with his reminder to be "steadfast". Being steadfast is not an easy resting all the time. Our faith - our conviction of the truth that God is good - gets tested all the time. It can get very tempting to start thinking that while God is in control, he doesn't always have our good in mind. The Israelites ran into this out in the desert when they got scared by the lack of food and water and said, "Weren't there enough graves in Egypt that you had to drag us out into the desert to die out here?"
They believed God was there, they just weren't so sure they believed God is actually good.
One of the hardest things for any believer to do is to keep giving up our idea of good and trusting that what God is doing is truly good. To remain steadfast despite whatever circumstances are going on.
For me, it's been a rough time on the grandmother front. Two of my four grandmas (biological and in-law) are dying and my situation is such that I can't be with one of them much. Another is really struggling and my family is stretched right now trying to figure out how best to care for her from day to day. The grandma who is doing well is a bit neglected with all the drama going on with the others and we know time with her is just as precious, but we aren't able to see her anywhere near as much as we'd like. There are a lot of times when I'm wanting to ask, "Lord, why does this all have to happen at the same time?"
If I were planning my idea of "good", this wouldn't necessarily be it. But if I remain steadfast in my conviction that God is good and all he does is good, I know this is the case even now. This is one way God is, among other things, encouraging me to grow the character to be "perfect and complete, not lacking in anything". He's not doing it for me, but he's certainly giving me the chance to do it. To remain steadfast. To not get discouraged.
As a Grandma Lila update: we continue to wait with her and do our best to keep her peaceful and comfortable. We had a doctor pay us a visit this week and explain a lot of what we were seeing that was confusing. The most interesting thing is that Grandma's mind has changed quite a bit. For the first week, she was nearly unresponsive, but then she had a week of being extraordinarily clear-headed and able to converse and reason at normal speed - which was amazing because I've never known her in that capacity - but now she isn't usually rational like most people would be. Now's she had a week where she hasn't been unresponsive, but she hasn't been clear-headed either.
Actually, as we enter the fourth week since bringing her home from the hospital, the closest way to describe her usual frame of mind these days is like someone who's getting a little whiskey all the time with the chocolate ice cream she so enjoys tasting. Apparently as a person's mind begins closing off everything but it's most important functions, their awareness changes and their mind no longer perceives accurately what's going on around it, sort of like what happens when a person drinks a lot of alcohol. Just as when a person drinks, it's not as if the actual personality of a person changes but their inhibitions go away. So what is inside is plainly visible because the person no longer has the capability or desire of masking it. In Grandma's case, she pretty much says whatever she's thinking all the time and clowns around happily saying things like, "Mm, this lemonade is pink ambrosia!" Sometimes she gets very sad and weepy for no apparent reason, but most of the time the last several days she's just been like...well, a very happy drunk. Or at least the way happy drunks are portrayed in movies.
Mom and Dad Turner have been here faithfully every day in the afternoon and evening, while Ben, Elizabeth and I do the morning and nighttime shift. The usual roles are: Mom being in charge of keeping Grandma company (she's the one Grandma really wants there most, so just being here makes a huge difference in taking care of what Grandma wants) and finding new musicals for Grandma to watch; Ben being in charge of medicine and gets up at night if Grandma calls; and I've got cleaning and bandaging and general personal care (and Abigail). Dad and Elizabeth are the support team and fill in with all different things, including meals and cleaning and Abigail entertaining when the rest of us are doing Grandma care (like baths). Ben's sister Jenny comes by often and entertains Grandma and Abigail, often at the same time.
One of the things that's happened with my other grandma who's struggling is that she came down with a stomach virus from the assisted living home where she'd moved to and my mom caught it, which meant for the safety of several fragile people my family has been quarantined until further notice. Elizabeth happened to be the sister staying here (Anna and Elizabeth have been taking turns) when this happened, so as she was outside the quarantine she is here with us for the duration. We've been enjoying her presence quite a bit, especially as she is using the opportunity to try out some very tasty Pinterest recipes that would be tougher to make on the scale of my family's size and tastes. Yesterday, for instance, we had poached salmon with spiced cream sauce, red potatoes and roasted lemon green beans. This is gourmet on normal occasions, but lately our dinners have degenerated quite a bit and that makes this kind of thing extra special.
And so we continue to wait...
5/5/2014 06:41:30 am
Hey Lauren, just wanted to let you know that we are thinking of you. I know this is a difficult time for you but your thoughts are all true and encouraging. I have wanted to send some food over but since our children have been sick (and myself mildly) I haven't wanted to risk sending the sickness as well! Hopefully soon.
5/5/2014 12:11:35 pm
Hello Maureen - we appreciate every single one of those thoughts and have been thinking of you too, especially when we heard you were dealing with 103 and 104 fevers for multiple days on end (!!). In this case, not sending food is love. :-) We really hope you are all feeling well soon and we'll be able to talk together in person. What a strange year for all of us, eh?
5/22/2014 11:14:15 pm
"giving up OUR idea of good and trusting that God's idea is good" your words have been what I have been concentrating on for these last few weeks. I have had other examples in my life and I find that I need to be reminded. Like when my husband and I lost our jobs, then our insurance, and then found out we were pregnant for the first time. What a wonderful story we've had all these years to remember :) Thank you for saying it so clearly.
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Wife of Benjamin and mother to two wonderful little girls who are getting bigger every day. Enjoys writing down thoughts and discussions we are having within the family and sharing them with whoever is interested in reading.
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