God Over All That Happens
Character is rarely fully seen; but over time we can see glimpses of the 'real person'. Although we observe their planned actions - the matters they intend us to notice - it is their reactions that reveal most about their inner nature. In the moment of stress, when we are not in full control of the situation, our words and actions betray us. They show who we trust, who we love and who we hate, and how we intend to face the future. Both trouble and happiness may come to us (there is no need for James to define the many causes of each) but we certainly know when our circumstances make us downcast or happy. The question is, how do we react?
In the previous verses, James said that impatience, grumbling, giving up or swearing is not the right way (James 5:7-12). The right way is to refer everything to the Lord. When trouble comes, it is no surprise to Him; He knows and wants to work a solution that will be for His glory and our good (Romans 8:28). If we have a relationship with Him, it should be natural to cry out to Him. When all is well, the child of God will not want to take the glory, but to give thanks and praise to the One who deserves all the glory. That is the key: that God should be glorified - either in dependent prayer trusting Him to act, or in praise for what He has done, and all for His glory's sake (Psalm 69:29-30).
Difficulties and nice happenings both generate emotion. How we express that emotion demonstrates our character, either selfish or godly. The, mainly, Jewish readers of James' letter understood the value in expressing emotion from their hymnbook (the Psalms). Different tribes/nations today may have contrasting cultures of emotional expression, but true believers throughout the world should be taught to bring their emotions to God; not solving problems alone nor pleasing themselves in the good times, but giving the glory to the Lord.
International business culture tends to be self-congratulatory, but the man and woman of God will express praise to their Master. The secular workplace sneers at humility; but the troubled person is right to humble themselves under God's mighty hand, in the confidence that He will act at the right time (1 Peter 5:6). So, what do your reactions say about your relationship with God? If, having thought about it, your reactions are not like those of Jesus – it is time to confess and repent. And then to learn a new lifestyle with Jesus.
© Dr Paul Adams