Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing psalms. (James 5:13, NKJV)
Prayer and song. This couplet proves comforting and invigorating as we go through life’s storms and life’s calm. Suffering comes in many forms; physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. Prayer is a balm for the weary, an assuring strength during times of tumult and uncertainty. And so, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7). Even as suffering leads to earnest prayer, happy times evoke praise of the Almighty. The Lord is the source of joy that no one can take from us – the joy of victory over sin and death (John 16:20-22, 33). When life brings good fortune, Christians raise up songs of praise to God. We remember that God is the Giver of every good blessing; we did not create our happiness without His good providence. And so, James gives us sound instruction for difficult and happy times. He reminds us to look to God through all of life’s joys and sorrows. The Lord “will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5). He will see you through.
10 My brethren, take the prophets, who spoke in the name of the Lord, as an example of suffering and patience. 11 Indeed we count them blessed who endure. You have heard of the perseverance of Job and seen the end intended by the Lord—that the Lord is very compassionate and merciful. (James 5:10–11, NKJV)
Perseverance. Steadfast endurance, patient continuance. Perseverance defines a growing, fruitful faith, come what may. When opposed, the patient perseveres, waiting for the divine blessing they know will come (James 5:7). By patience, the heart is established (James 5:8). Knowing the Lord is just and that He will execute justice against evil is our incentive to persevere through the sufferings imposed by the unjust. The prophets and Job are examples of such perseverance. God’s prophets were threatened, harassed, rejected and killed, yet still they rose up early and spoke God’s word to a rebellious people (Jeremiah 26:1-6). Job’s suffering was intense, but he endured, and God’s merciful compassion was abundantly supplied. The Lord will return, bringing blessings to those who trust Him and patiently wait for Him. Even when the way is hard, add perseverance to your faith, and it will bear fruit unto eternal life (2 Peter 1:5-8).
27 “Now My soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save Me from this hour’? But for this purpose I came to this hour. 28 Father, glorify Your name.” Then a voice came from heaven, saying, “I have both glorified it and will glorify it again.” (John 12:27–28, NKJV)
The moment of trial is the very moment our heavenly Father is glorified. Although Jesus desired to escape the approaching cup of suffering, His greater desire was to fulfill the Father’s purpose which had brought Him to this hour (cf. Matt. 26:39). When we suffer for the sake of righteousness, let us do so with faith, never doubting God’s revealed will, and never exalting ourselves (Matt. 5:10-12). God is magnified and honored when you freely, willingly and faithfully suffer trials in order to be true to His purposes. The Father spoke from heaven that day, giving miraculous testimony to the people that Jesus is the Christ (read John 12:30-36). God’s word, the Scriptures, continue to testify that Jesus Christ died to cast out the ruler of this world, to draw sinners to Himself, and to light our way to heaven. Follow Jesus, the light of the world, and the darkness of sin will not overwhelm you.
19 How long? Will You not look away from me, and let me alone till I swallow my saliva? 20 Have I sinned? What have I done to You, O watcher of men? Why have You set me as Your target, so that I am a burden to myself? (Job 7:19–20, NKJV)
Job was in the midst of tremendous suffering, not because of his own sins, but because he was upright (Job 1:8-12). His three friends told him it was his own sins that produced his grief and pain. Far from being sympathetic, one of them said, “whoever perished, being innocent?” (Job 4:7) Job wondered out loud if God had put a target on his back. No, far from it. The innocent do suffer in this world (Jesus of Nazareth is the prime example). When they do, we must not blame God, but keep our faith in Him, knowing that He is far more powerful and wiser than we are. Sin brought suffering in this world, and evil is the ultimate culprit of this world’s pain (Gen. 3:1-19). Job endured, and saw “that the Lord is very compassionate and merciful” (Jas. 5:11; Job 42:10-17). Let us imitate his perseverance when tested by sorrow. This world is not our home.