My favorite brunette provides a guest blog this morning as she wraps up her summer internship in Denver, CO and prepares to head back to college 🙂
Inspiration this week comes from James 1:2-4
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything,”
I spent my summer volunteering at a free summer camp for kids in Denver’s inner-city housing projects. It was a completely eye-opening and humbling experience— if you’d ever like to have your assumptions and worldview challenged over arts and crafts, I whole-heartedly recommend seeking out one of my kiddos. The beautiful thing about these kids is even though they’ve been through more trials and hardships than the most embittered adult, they still want to let people in and share their hearts. During my 8 weeks at the camp this summer, the way they talked about incredibly heavy topics, like the deportation of a parent or financial stress or violence in their neighborhood, as normal, pervasive facts of life broke my heart.
In the face of challenges such as those faced by the kids, the verses above can seem almost like an empty platitude, an inept way to rationalize suffering in a world created by a good, good God.
Why does a good God allow suffering and evil to plague the lives of His people?
I don’t know the answer to this, and you probably don’t either. Yes, He uses trials to refine us, as iron sharpens iron, and struggles do help us to empathize more fully with Jesus’ experience in this world, but for me, these truths don’t entirely alleviate the holes left by loss and hurt in my life. While we will never be able to truly understand God’s plan for why we or someone we love are suffering, we shouldn’t just throw our hands up in the air and do nothing about our situation.
A German martyr named Alfred Delp once said that while it is not in our power to stop our own suffering or that of others, it is our responsibility to respond in a way that allows the seeds that God plants through hard times to “fall upon fertile ground”. This, for me, taps into the partnership aspect of our faith– as we suffer, we walk alongside Jesus and listen to what life was like for He who took on our sins and as we do, He welcomes our laments and sorrows and complaints with the compassionate ear of someone who has personally known our pain. This companionship and the peace that comes with laying our burdens at His feet is the only way that I consider my tribulations joy.
As I reflect on my summer, the overwhelming emotion from it all is joy. I owe this entirely to the kids I spent it with, the same ones who put on impromptu rap battles and K-Pop dance parties, who planned and executed a water gun sneak-attack on me and the other staff in the halls of our building, and who upon learning that I would share my lunch with whoever asked nicely, would put in increasingly complicated orders for the next day (I’m talking requests like: pb&j with two different kinds of jelly, crunchy peanut butter and cut diagonally). These kids teach a lesson to us all to seize the joy in every moment of every day and to appreciate the small eyes in the storms of our lives as gifts from God.
Consider it pure joy…