Today’s first reading is a good summary of how to handle adversity as a Christian. The warning about the dangers of doubt is very important: “Ask in faith, not doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed about by the wind.” Such waves are so erratic, you never know which one’s going to swamp you. It’s the kind of water that Peter began to walk on and then sank into.
When we doubt God’s love or his desire to intervene during our trials, we’re double-minded. We believe, we don’t believe, we trust, we don’t trust, we hope, we don’t hope. Having two minds makes us very unstable and we soon fall over. We must not suppose that we’ll receive anything from the Lord; although he gives it, we won’t notice! All we see are the waves.
What challenges the steadiness of your faith? What tosses you like the surf and drives you like the wind?
Probably your answer is the same as mine: people. Yeah, those people who seem to be in our face just to undermine our joy, those people who are difficult to deal with, those people who criticize us or ridicule us, and those people who are on the road of destruction and we worry about them and we try to help them but they won’t stop to seek God’s healing and peace.
Those people who cause the various trials we’re encountering — they challenge our patience, our ability to love unconditionally, our quickness to forgive, our endurance, our hopefulness, etc. In other words, they challenge the steadiness of our faith. The more vulnerable we are to these challenges, the more easily our faith is tossed around by doubts and other destructive forces.
Are these people really to blame, though? No, we can only blame ourselves, for we are responsible for how we react to the trials. Others might limit the possible outcomes of the trials, but we don’t have to let them control our faith, too, or our moods. Our response is always our choice, and if we fail to take ownership of this, we let others toss us around like wind-driven waves on the sea, and we let their behavior make us doubt God’s goodness and his love and his desire to help.
James says that we are to be joyful about our trials. This seemingly impossible joy comes from knowing that no one can control our faith but us; it’s ours and God alone has access to it.
As James reminds us, we should ask God for wisdom, and he will respond by teaching us how to endure our trials. That’s not a bad way to live! As long as we choose to believe him and act upon his wisdom, rather than react to the troublemakers, we’ll enjoy a steady faith that calms the waters even while the storms continue to rage.