As I read the Bible, I am constantly reminded of how divergent it is from my own perspective on life.
For example, in James 1, Jesus’s brother (and self-described servant) opens his letter by saying, “Consider it all joy, my brothers…” Sounds good, right? I care about joy in my life. James, you have my attention.
He continues, “…when you meet trials of various kinds…” (James 1:2, ESV).
You know what I like to count as joy? Things that bring me joy, like kissing my wife, playing with my kids, succeeding at my job. I feel joyful with a mouthful of Ben & Jerry’s Phish Food. Need I say that to survey my life’s troubles and consider them joy is unnatural to me?
Maybe Jesus makes a bit more sense. Ok, Jesus, how would you suggest that I succeed in life? “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all” (Mark 9:35, ESV). I haven’t seen that slogan on a mug.
God calls us to an altogether unnatural perspective on all things- success, love, prosperity, whatever you may think. Paul states it clearly in his letter to the Colossians when he says, “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth” (Colossians 3:2). For Paul, the normal call of a Christian was to rethink what was “natural” or “normal.” What the world might consider success, God considers failure. What the world considers loss, God calls us to consider gain.
Thankfully, Paul explains that this reversal isn’t some morbid demand on God’s part to live in opposites-land. He prefaces his command to think heavenward with the truth that “[we] have been raised with Christ” (Colossians 3:1). Our idea of what is natural changes because we have changed. I am no longer a slave to sin, a citizen of this world, an enemy of God experiencing the most good that I can here and now. I am “raised with Christ.” I am a slave to Christ. I am redeemed from the power of sin. And I have a hope that lives beyond the dirt that will one day cover my dead body.
“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:2-4, ESV).
God calls me to see beyond what the world considers the end of perspectives- death. He calls me to see the glorious perfection that he purchased with the blood of his Son and that I experience now in part and will experience fully after death. He calls me to live to that end. And in doing so, what was once “natural” becomes “unnatural” and what trials, suffering, and hardship I once considered the cruel inevitabilities of this world, I now consider tools in the hand of a master craftsman.
Though he may not change the circumstance, he does change my perspective.