James 1:2-4 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. Then in Philippians 1:12-14 Paul says this: I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.
None of us like to encounter trials. And certainly, none of us are seeking imprisonment. But James and Paul talk about God using their circumstances for His glory, for His kingdom and for their good. We know this to be true intellectually, but it is so hard to have that perspective clearly when we are going through that trial.
It is interesting to note that even from a psychological standpoint we become stronger as we endure. Malcolm Gladwell, in his book David and Goliath, talks about the bombing of Britain in World War II. “Britain’s leaders were sure that the bombing attack would leave hundreds of thousands of people dead, over a million wounded and would panic the civilians in London.” They actually began building psychiatric hospitals on the outskirts of London anticipating the people’s reaction to the bombing.
When the bombing began in the Fall of 1940, there were 57 consecutive nights of bombardment. But what happened was different than what the leaders expected. The British people became more resistant and more courageous during the bombing. It was really not understood until the Canadian psychiatrist J. P. MacCurdy talked about the phenomena in his book The Structure of Morale. He identified three groups of people: those killed, the near misses and the remote misses. Those that were killed, obviously, were more devastated. The near misses could become further frightened or more determined. But the remote misses listened to the sirens; watched the bombers and heard the exploding bombs but nothing happened to them. MacCurdy says, “With the remote misses those people began to feel excitement with a flavor of invulnerability. The British described it as maintaining a stiff upper lip, but the conquering of a real and present danger led to relief, feelings of security, that promoted a self-confidence that is the very father and mother of courage.”
Isn’t that astounding? We know for a muscle to get stronger it has to be stretched. God’s sovereign plan is to stretch us so we are more like Jesus. I don’t desire these trials, but my deepest desire is to be grateful to God that He would count me worthy. I grow deeper in my walk and dependence on Him. It is a privilege, a responsibility and a blessing!
Certainly 2020 has been a year like none other. Have we grown closer to God through this past year? Has our faith increased? Have we looked for creative opportunities to share the gospel? Let’s deepen our resolve, be grateful, hopeful, and even stronger and courageous.