In these verses of James's letter to anxious Christians, he reminds us that life is short, that nothing about tomorrow is guaranteed, and that we should focus on doing God's will. He encourages Christians, especially those who are suffering, to be patient, to persevere, and to trust God.
In the middle of his messages, James says (v.15), "Instead you ought to say, 'If the Lord wishes, we will live and do this or that.'" And (v.17), "Anyone, then, who knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, commits sin." What exactly does God wish for us to live and do? What is the right thing to do?
Last fall, I started watching a television show called Three Wishes. The premise is simple. Sponsored by Home Depot and Ameriquest Mortgage, singer Amy Grant and three companions set up a tent in a small town and ask the townspeople to individually share their deepest wishes with them. Three wishes, usually to allievate someone's suffering, are then selected and granted.
As you listen to the stories of how the unexpected happened (car accidents, cancer, blindness, etc.) you know that these individuals experienced deep anguish, shed uncontrollable tears, and suffered in ways most of us will never suffer. Yet, always in these cases, the wish for relief, the wish for a miracle, was made by someone other than the afflicted person.
For every individual who has had a wish granted (a prayer answered) by Three Wishes, countless others must continue to wait. That's where we can enter the picture and be available to God to help with His timing and His hand. We can do the right thing, as did the individuals who gave up their own wishes for someone else. There are many right things we can do to help those in distress. But the easiest right thing, the best right thing we can do is to pray that they may have patience, perseverance, and trust in God, and to pray that God may show us how we can best help.
Dear God, may we encourage each other to be patient, to persevere, and to always trust in You, and may we never ever fail to pray. Amen.