A positive path for spiritual living

Vesper 4 15 20 Count It All Joy

I love the book of James.  It is very practical and contains a lot of application of principle advice.  James explores the concept of faith vs works in the scripture I live by: Show me your faith apart from your works, and I by my works will show you my faith. It’s sort of “walk the talk or be quiet” approach. I know Unity, by and large, is not that big on reading the Bible.  We tend to only use stories for metaphysical interpretation and honestly, there isn’t much in the way of stories in James.  I fear many people stop at the opening of James and never get much further.  It’s a bold opening and a challenge in our current environment.  Here’s what he says, “My brothers and sisters,whenever you face trials of any kind, consider it nothing but joy,  because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance; and let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing.”  It’s like the very first thing he says!  Yikes! Now? Count it all joy?  Seriously James?

But let’s break it down.  Brothers and sisters—we are all in this together.  One family of humanity, this is how it works for everyone. 

Whenever you face trials of any kind—so this is a response to however we view the world.  What do you consider a trial?  Last week the Wednesday email talked about how each of us is having our own individual experience during the quarantine. For some the challenge is not working, for some the challenge is working. For some the challenge is not being able to go out, for some the challenge is having to go out and not being able to stay in. 

James also doesn’t try to compare trials—and honors that if it is a trial for you, he is not judging.  How many of us have ever found ourselves dismissing someone else’s complaints as “not a big deal” or “that wouldn’t bother me.”  Nope, not James. Whenever you face trials of any kind!

Count it all joy?  That’s the hard part until you dig deeper. 

Because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance; and let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing.

How many of us feel like our faith in One Power, One Presence—God the good—expect only good—is being tested?  The Daily Word is Order.  Does this feel like order?  As usual, my first comment is, “Wouldn’t real divine order go a little faster?”  Humans are an impatient lot and our first test is always patience.  Which is why James says the testing of our faith produces endurance.  Time and time again we have to learn to trust the process—the  divine process of order unfolding.  We have to move our attention up higher, out of the weeds and alligators in the swamp we find ourselves being tested in. 

Not to ignore the swamp or pretend there aren’t alligators but to get a perspective on where to go next and that the whole world is not a swamp. Endurance acknowledges that the way out may not be quick and may not be easy.  Endurance also acknowledges that we do not give up opening to guidance and strength and comfort that arises from our connection to Spirit. This learning to continue to trust our Oneness and the flow of the divine through us even when conditions persist beyond our expectations—beyond what we are okay with—this learning is what matures us.  Endurance does not necessarily mean we keep doing the same thing.  We adapt. We remain open to new guidance.  We continue and persist in the direction out of the swamp as we are guided.  Step by step we do not give up in doing good—in expecting good—in practicing compassion and kindness and generosity.  If we do not give up, if endurance has its full effect in us we will be complete, lacking in nothing. 

Do we in fact lack in faith? Do we lack in love?  Do we lack in wisdom? Do we lack in life? Not really. Why? Because those are our spiritual faculties within.  Nothing in the outer can diminish what is within.  However, outer conditions can distract us from looking within and drawing upon what we have. We get focused on the lack in the outer and convince ourselves lack is the truth of our being.  Often, at this bottoming out point, it occurs to us to pray. 

Ah, it’s come to that.  We have to pray!  Yet this is our turning in and tapping into what is always available.  This is part of how endurance teaches us we are complete and lacking in nothing. Have you ever touched the bottom, surrendered in prayer and discovered exactly what you needed? Could that lesson be our joy? 

I can identify some surrender points in my life. Some, “Okay, I give up” points. I give up my wilfullness and the idea that I, the personality, ego I, am doing this alone. I turn to prayer. I open up to all that Spirit has been trying to pour into stubborn, wilfull me all along. Sometimes I can feel the literal flow into my soul. It is a calming balm. It is a river of peace and healing. It is all I need and I am lacking in nothing. 

James encourages us to be grateful for the opportunities for spiritual growth and with each lesson we gather more evidence that we can begin to count it all joy even before we see the outcome.  Looking back, even some of the experiences and trials we resisted the most, grieved the most, suffered the most, we can see how that experience strengthened our faith muscle and reminded us of the spiritual resources available.  Life happens.  What we make of what happens is up to us. There will be lessons in the pandemic, for us individually, as a spiritual community, as a country and as a global community.  Let us count it all joy and allow endurance have its full effect in us that we may be mature and complete at the end of this time, lacking in nothing.