Posted on February 4, 2014
Living and working in the city has a way of keeping me from admiring God’s artistry. I’m often hustling and bustling, rushing from one appointment to the next. But, on a mildly warm January evening I allowed God to captivate me. As I walked briskly down the street, I felt a nudge in my heart. It was as if the Spirit of God stopped me in my tracks. Without realizing I was staring at the sky counting the stars. In all my life they never seemed so bright. I counted them one-by-one and did my best to remember the different constellations.
I was grateful for the moment to look up and see the illuminated sky particularly because that moment would follow me into a weekend filled with heartbreaking news from people I love dearly. As each sorrowful report came in God whispered to my soul, “Count it.”
I spent my weekend praying for various friends who I knew were hurting. I shared in their mourning and carried the weight of their burdens then once again, I remembered what God whispered to me and was led to my bible, specifically the Book of James.
The author of the Book of James, who is said to be Jesus’ brother, gives careful instruction for navigating the grievous points of our lives,”Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness” (James 1-2). At first glance James’s instructions seem insensitive. Why should anyone want to count their grief as joy? My initial understanding caused me to wrestle with this scripture while going through my own valley moments. Coincidentally, in the midst of heart-wrenched prayer this past weekend I believe God brought me to a point of greater revelation, which I hope will encourage any of you who are in a time of suffering.
If theologians are correct that James was in fact Jesus’ brother then he would know quite a bit about suffering, having watched many of the apostles suffer for the sake of the Gospel. Even more, he would know grief because he would have witnessed supreme suffering in Jesus’ crucifixion. Not only would he know about suffering, he would also (and even more importantly) know about the miracles Jesus performed. It seems James is not just charging the church to count all of our trials as joy, but more so our blessings.
In our trials and periods of grief, counting our blessings is hard.
It’s easy to lose sight of the power and love of Christ in our pain. Grief and sorrow are the challenging parts of the Christian life and it can be difficult to reconcile a loving God with the hurt we experience: Broken relationships, death and abuse. But, when we view our sufferings in light of God’s blessings our faith and endurance are increased. When we count all of our blessings as joy through our suffering we hold onto the belief that God’s goodness is greater than our temporary pain.
When my father was murdered immediately following our reuniting 12 years ago I had to count the beautiful moments we shared before his death. When I went through my divorce I had to count the lessons I learned. When I watch my mother battle her illness I have to count the days we have left together. I’ve had to count all my blessings as joy through my storms. Doing this reminds me God is near. The Psalmist of Psalms 23 knew about counting his blessings in the depths of despair when he cried out, ” Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for you [God] are with me. Your rod and your staff comfort me” (Psalm 23: 4-5).
This doesn’t minimize the pain. The pain is very present and God understands the depths of our despair. Yet, He gives us the rod of our past victories and the staff of His presence to guide us through the storm.
Like the stars in a blackened sky, our moments of blessings light up the darkened seasons of our lives.
If you’re hurting today count the stars. Count the moments you remember God showing up for you. Count your blessings. Count it all because while you’re hurting, God is counting your tears. And I promise He won’t waste a single one.
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
Now it’s your turn: If you’re hurting today, how can I be praying for you?
Tell me in the comments section below or feel free to send me an email, hi(at)shakirahadianna(dot)com.