2 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. (James 1:2-3 ESV)
Last October after our denomination’s National Assembly, Marie and I spent some time in Sydney visiting our friends (and fellow Texans) Richey and Keli. We went to see Bondi Beach, and nearby was a walking art exhibit on a trail and on bluffs looking out over the sea. The art installations were modern, some of them absurdist. I got a chuckle out of one, an “Inconvenience Store.” It was a small, shed-sized “shop” of bags of broken glass, cigarette stubs, and other such stuff. A sign intimating when the shop would be open were at, you guessed it, inconvenient hours.
I imagine we all have had events in our lives that greatly inconvenienced, annoyed, of frustrated us to no end, and seemed at the time to be outrageous impositions upon us. The blessing of older age is being able to look back at such events with a touch of humour, and perhaps some sadness, at our foibles in those trying times. At the time, though, they were full of trauma and drama; they were très tragique, as the French might say. But there is also the case that in our older years we may grow less patient, aptness to be quickly irritated, and poor examples of patience.
Times of inconvenience don’t rise to the level of, say, the testing of one’s faith that James speaks of in the first chapter of his epistle. But we do see that such times are revelatory of our values, of what is truly important to us; they reveal our character. St. Augustine said of troubles, “For, stirred up with the same movement, mud exhales a horrible stench, and ointment emits a fragrant odor.” So, what is in our heart? Mud or ointment? A stench, or the sweet aroma of Christ?
When inconveniences come, and what is stirred up in us has a stinky whiff of eau de mudflat, we should turn to the Lord and confess our sin of self-centeredness and lack of trust in Him. It is then that we learn from such times of failure, and in times of success in which we’ve built upon our experiences in growth in grace. Such testing of our faith produces steadfastness.