My brothers and sister, whenever you face trials of any kind, consider it nothing but joy, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance; and let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing.

If any of you is lacking in wisdom, ask God, who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly, and it will be given you, But ask in faith, never doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind;........

Blessed is anyone who endures temptation. Such a one has stood the test and will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him. James 1: 2-6; 12 (NRSV)

Rachel Lulich is from Indiana. When she was growing up she braved bees, skunks, and thorns to pick wild blackberries for the promise of winter pies. Recently, she was picking alone, leaning into the thorny vines as always. She knew the thorns would scratch her legs and arms and snag her clothes as she stretched out for the ripe, dark berries that less-dedicated pickers thought too risky to collect. But Rachel didn't mind the scratches. In fact, she loved them. They were a reminder of her childhood, a mark of dedication, and a promise of good things to come. As she picked, God brought to mind the phrase "joy in the midst of suffering." Rachel was so surprised that she stopped picking.

The Bible has much to say about suffering and how we should respond to it. By no measure has Rachel suffered much, but she has always understood that suffering brings us closer to God, who gives us strength to endure it. Before this time she has not quite understood the concept of counting our trials as joy.

Even in minor challenges God helps increase our understanding, and so berry picking became an unlikely lesson. Scratches are not the same as persecution, disease, or death. But for Rachel, they were a reminder. In the future she may face severe trials; but however they may sting, she can endure them with joy for the sake of the good qualities she knows that God will produce in her.

It is hard in the time of trials and tribulation to find joy, but , with the help of God, it is possible. May we learn to rely on God and stand firm in our faith.

Prayer: Giver of joy, comfort our souls when we face hardships, in Jesus' name, amen.

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