Thought for the Day: For the next two Sundays, I am preaching on the book of James. When I’m needing a personal challenge, I know James will not disappoint. Here at the beginning, James speaks of testing. As young people are headed back to school, we can be confident that testing is on their mind. For them, a test is something designed by a teacher (or some entity in the educational structure) that is put before them. If they are challenged by the test or feel as if it is unfair, their negativity is usually pointed at the one who put the test before them – the teacher. Within faith, the word test appears often, and many people assume the test giver is God. This assumption emerges from a challenge, often determined as unfair, that is thrust before an individual. It is believed that the test giver is to blame. But what if a lot of the tests put before us don’t necessarily have a test giver? What if the things we call tests are nothing more than challenges and obstacles of life. I remember getting a call from a guy who got two teeth knocked out in a basketball game, and it was right before a big presentation at work. He was angry and asked, “Why is God testing me this way?” Actually, when your head is going down at a fairly good clip and the back of your opponent’s head is moving in the opposite direction, the only test I think of is related to the impact of an unstoppable force meeting an immovable object…and something almost always loses. When bad or less than pleasing things happen in life, there is a yearning to thrust the blame on something or someone. Yet playing basketball comes with certain risks. For James, I don’t believe he wrote of testing one’s faith for the purpose of trying to cast blame. Instead, he asked his readers: How are you going to respond to this challenge, this unexpected obstacle put before you? How does faith in God’s unconditional and redemptive love play itself out in such moments? What kind of positive change might it bring? What kind of witness does it provide? To really struggle with those questions requires us to move beyond blaming God for the test.
Prayer: You don’t need to test us, Merciful God, as the world around us does a pretty dandy job. Let us not waste time in seeking to blame someone or something. Instead, encourage us to find a faithful response to all the challenges and obstacles that appear in our lives. Amen.
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