Hi everyone. Rob here.
In the book of James we see the old sage dispensing wisdom to his audience. It is wisdom born out of experience. As the leader of the Jerusalem church he had seen it all: Persecution, famine, hardship, the perils of legalism, the perils of liberalism and more. As one of the younger brothers of Jesus himself he knew that the life of faith isn’t easy, but it is necessary. In James 1:12 we see him write this;
Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.
We know about God’s unconditional love for us. It is true, steadfast and beautiful. It is, also, often hard to hang on to as life’s circumstances throw us about. What James is talking about here isn’t that. This is about our unconditional love of God. This is about us choosing to confess our love for God and practice our love for God even as life’s circumstances throw us about. Choosing to love God is an act of faith, but it is also a rescue for our hearts.
If we simply focus on our circumstances we find ourselves stuck in a few different ways. First we try and make a way through the circumstance. We apply our best thinking, we make arrangements and, if that doesn’t go well, we scheme and plot and manipulate. We may even resort to making deals with God. But even as we do that we’re focusing on the circumstance and not God. Or we may enter into a fatalistic melancholy where we come to an agreement that this is the way it is and always will be. We give up but become defined by the circumstance whatever it may be. Another way is to hide behind holiness. We start to pray more, read Scripture more, listen to worship music and the like, but sub-consciously we’re trying to earn our way into God’s good books. It’s a childlike behaviour. We look good but we’re still trying to get our way. There’s another path. Loving God.
When we choose to love God we’re not ignoring our circumstances. We’re putting them in their place. We’re relativizing their importance. We’re saying that our hearts first and foremost belong to God. He gets our attention and devotion before anything else. We give God our heart and, in doing so, we entrust all the circumstances of our life to him. We attach ourselves to the heart of God and we detach ourselves from the problems of our life. We haven’t ignored or bypassed them. We’ve simply chosen not to make them an idol that demans our attention.
Is this process easy? Of course not! The circumstances of our life include grief of all kinds, unemployment, relationship fractures, physical pain, untold disappointments and more. Words cannot express how heartbreaking, pain-inducing and exasperating life can be. We are also taught that God is our life and all things are under his hand. It is very difficult to believe that God is good when, deep down, you believe there’s a lot more that he could be doing! But having faith only when we believe that God is doing what we want him to do is no faith at all. Faith takes us out of what we think is best and takes us to a place where we believe that God is always good, always doing what is right, always acting in love even if I can’t see it or understand it. The act of loving God helps us to bridge the gap between the circumstances of our life and the act of embracing faith.
So do it. You can start right now by saying “God I love you. I love you Father. I love you Jesus. I love you Holy Spirit. I welcome you into my heart and I give you my heart. I love you.” Dwelling in a prayer like that, even for a minute, can be enormously freeing to your heart. You start breathing normally, seeing clearly, standing up straighter and feeling more peaceful, hopeful and maybe even joyful. Choose to love God and you’ll discover that it’s what your soul was made for.
Grace and peace.