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Merry or Sad

November 26th, 2006

(Christians and the Human Experience)

“Is any among you suffering? Let him pray.
Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise…”

(James 5:13)

“If there were dreams to sell, merry and sad to tell,
And the crier rang the bell, what would you buy?”

– Thomas Lovell Beddoes

The human experience is often freckled with cheerfulness and suffering. Life, as we know it, is neither one or the other, but one and the other. James, very much in touch with the extremes of the human experience, uses terms which reflect our own times—“suffering,” “cheerful,” and “sick” (James 5:13,14). We may say with confidence that, while Christ came to save us from sin and death, he allows certain universals currently intact to prevail for a limited time. These universals would include such concepts and facts as human joy and human trials (James 1:3).

Since life has aspects of being a test, James encourages remaining steadfast under trial in order to withstand the test (see James 1:3, 12). To James, neither joy nor suffering, in and of themselves constitute a complete theology of blessing, but rather, how joy and sadness are handled. Does joy prompt you to live without God? Does sadness disprove the existence of God? No, they are just part of the whole human drama in which we find ourselves. So, may your days be merry and bright, but if they are not—all is not lost. “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us” (James 4:5).

– Robert M. Housby

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