God never ceases to do good to his children.

We had a weekend away as a church recently, and spent some time looking at the first chapter of the letter of James. We are to “consider it pure joy” whenever we face trials, because through perseverance we become “mature and complete” (James 1:2-4).

Christians will face trials. James says “whenever” you face trials. Trials will come.

When they do, we can view them in different ways. One is to see them as irredeemable difficulties, out of God’s control. Another is to believe that God is at work in and through them to make us more like Jesus.

James calls us to the latter, reassuring us that God has purposes in our trials. We can consider them pure joy because we know they serve to grow us into spiritual maturity, even if we cannot see how.

And so James can write in verse 17:

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.

It’s not a sudden change of topic, as if he got fed up of talking about trials and suffering and wants to turn to the good things God gives us. No, even the trials themselves can be seen as good gifts from God. God doesn’t change – one moment feeling benevolence and sending blessings, the next feeling vindictive and sending suffering. Rather, God is continually doing good to his children through the trials.

Paul writes in Romans 8:28:

We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him.

All things. Not just the easy and comfortable things, but the hard and painful things. Not just times of plenty, but times of famine. Not just times of joy, but times of sorrow.

The hymn-writers of old knew it. William Cowper wrote:

Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust Him for His grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.

An unknown hymn writer wrote:

When through fiery trials your pathway shall lie,
My grace, all-sufficient, shall be your supply;
The flame shall not harm you; I only design
Your dross to consume and your gold to refine.

George Matheson:

O Joy that seekest me through pain,
I cannot close my heart to thee;
I trace the rainbow through the rain,
And feel the promise is not vain,
That morn shall tearless be.

Horatio Spafford:

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

Cowper was depressed. Matheson was blind. Spafford lost four of his daughters at sea. Yet each knew the “streams of mercy, never ceasing” that flowed from the fount of every blessing. God was at work through their trials, and was with them in their trials. The same is true for us.

God never ceases to do good to his children.