James 1:2-4 has been a passage that has inspired and frightened me. This passage has comforted me and at times made me tremble with fear. "Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing."
I recently reviewed this passage for my own soul's edification. The command given that serves as the heart of the passage is, "Consider it all joy...when you encounter various trials." This command drives me to my knees begging God for mercy and divine grace and strength. I never respond to trials initially with joy. If I have any joy at all when tried and tested, it is because of much prayer, soul-searching, and spiritual discipline. Somehow I seem to have received an abundant ability to fuss and complain - I do that real well!!! I don't rejoice in trials very well. But this is the point of the command. If we always rejoiced in trials easily, then there would be no point to giving us this command. Thus, we are to obey God in this area by running to Jesus and our heavenly Father confessing our desperate need for help in this area.
But our obedience is not blind obedience. It is a reasoned, logical obedience. The text continues to explain why we must rejoice in trials. First, the text tells us what this trial really is ("testing of your faith"), and second, it explains what goodness trials bring to our lives when we rejoice in the Lord during times of difficulty. Trials are really a time of testing the believer's faith. This is because (according to 1 Peter 1:7) trials are God's instrument to demonstrate genuine faith in our hearts. Trials do not destroy our faith; trials reveal our faith (unless we have no faith at all). And second, these trials become, for the believer, the didactic process that develops the Christian into Christ-likeness. It is only in times of trials that "endurance" can be processed. But it is through endurance that we are made "perfect, complete, and lacking in nothing." That is a pretty good description of Christian maturity.
So, is the believer to pray for trials? Heaven's no!!! You live in a fallen world, you will have enough trials to come along as it is. God measures, forms, and shapes each trial for His specific purpose in our lives. He will allow them (and send them) in accordance with His loving purpose and grace. But I know of no way to grow spiritually other than through trials. So, let's have a time of personal reflection and contemplation when troubles and trials come our way. Let us not give in to despair or a sense of hopelessness. But rather, let us seek the Lord and His strength trusting in Him for every need and the ability to keep going for His glory. Amen!