Jumping back into formal, official competition made me realize quickly that training with the same person everyday for years in the same location and the same weather conditions will inevitably result in skill stagnation. Skill improvement involves not only competing against quality opponents, but against a variety of opponents and conditions. A good boxer knows how to combat both sluggers and counter-punchers. A good tennis player knows how to handle both aggressive base-liners and net-rushers. A good runner knows how to race on both flat and hilly courses. A good kayaker knows how to paddle in both the windless and the windy. A good MMA fighter knows how to attack and defend against both kick boxers and grapplers. There is, after all, a way to victoriously face against every kind of opponent.
And there is a way to victoriously face every trial. “Count it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials,” says James 1:2. Various trials, he says. Trials of a multitude of colors, he means. From betrayal to defamation to miscarriages to church fallouts to unemployment to nation-wide lockdowns to cancer diagnosis, life not only brings about a barrage of hardships but a diversity of them. Each one you encounter was ordained by God to produce maturity and completeness of character (James 2:4) and each one requires a different brand of wisdom to successfully overcome.
Even the most mature and seasoned of believers will feel like he’s lacking in wisdom when a personally unprecedented hardship strikes him or his family. Shortly after I went through a devastating fallout with my previous church where I lost nearly all of my friends, I found myself in a conversation with a good friend who had then recently been diagnosed with cancer. I told him, “I don’t know how you’re managing this. I honestly don’t know how I’d be able to endure knowing that I was diagnosed with a terminal condition.” To this, he responded, “I’d rather deal with cancer than to have to deal with the relational fallouts that you experienced in your church situation. I’m a relational person, and I can’t imagine having to go through what you went through.” Just because you know how to competently deal with one kind of adversity doesn’t mean that you then have the competency to handle another of a different nature. And just as an earthly father desires to equip his children with the skill-set for a variety of tasks and circumstances, so also our heavenly Father desires to generously bestow to His children the heavenly skill-set from above (James 3:17) to handle every trial to be encountered for the good of one’s character.
It is for this reason that James 1:5 says, “But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” It is indeed God’s will that His children become “perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:4). God desires for His children to be equipped to handle a variety of trials through the acquisition of every brand of wisdom that He so generously bestows. But the acquisition of such wisdom doesn’t come only through the study: it comes through the experiencing of the trials themselves.
Hence, it is those people who have gone through not only intense hardships, but also a variety of them over the course of their lives, who honestly seem to have the most answers to life. Encountering a variety of trials enables one to acquire every kind of wisdom. So when life gets hard in a multitude of ways, shrink not in discouragement. With joy and humble dependence, face them. With confidence, petition God for the game plan to navigate through them. For through your endurance through them, you will reach God’s intended result—that you be made mature and complete, lacking in nothing (James 1:4)