When I was in Year 11, I thought I wanted to work with little children - until I did work experience in a kindy.
Before I was married, I thought I was selfless.
Before I had a baby, I thought I was patient.
Before I was called to give freely, I thought I was generous.
Once I was tested with all these things, I realised I wasn't as kind, loving, selfless, patient and generous as I thought. Ouch.
It can be hard to see yourself in a new light - and so sometimes we shy away from anything challenging or testing because we know it's going to show up who we really are. We have to face up to reality; no longer can we just hold an image in our heads of how we'd like to think of ourselves.
But I finally understand this verse...
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. James 1:2-4
It doesn't necessarily feel like joy in the midst of the pressure and testing. Lately I feel like I've been tested a lot, and I was starting to feel down. I was starting to not like what I saw. Everything I thought I was, was being broken down and I was starting to wonder what would be left...
But think about it...
If I didn't face up to the reality that I can sometimes (often) be self-centred, I wouldn't still be married.
If I didn't work on my patience, I wouldn't get along with my daughter, or anyone else.
If I didn't realise my need to be more cheerfully generous, I couldn't be used by God to help others.
If I wasn't tested, I'd be alone, stingy and materialistic. And unhappy.
So I consider it pure joy!
Rather than walking around with an idealistic view of myself, but nothing real to show for it, I am discovering who I really am in Christ.
Because in Christ I am a new creation - once the reality of who I am is exposed, my faith grows, and the fruit of the Spirit begins to replace my broken nature.
Don't shy away from testing. Don't settle for a pale imitation of being a 'good person' - let your faith be tested and just watch and see how God can use you! Wait and see the real fruit your life will produce!